So you’ve assessed the feedback from your surveys and usability tests, analyzed the site within an inch of its life for obstructions in the customers’ paths, fixed the glaring errors and now you are ready to start devising some tests that will send the site into overdrive. However, if you are trying to explain your new designs to others then you may find that your explanations of the variations you want to test are falling on deaf ears.
If you have a free rein at this point to create and implement test designs then more power to you. For most of us that isn’t the case and we need to run our ideas by other people. Although they may understand—and even agree—with the criticisms that you are levelling at the present website or landing page, they may not be able to see how you can possibly make the changes that you are suggesting work.
The best way to do that is to create some wireframes, but not everyone has access to a super-talented designer who can mock up the variation pages to show how they will look for the tests—and why should they have all the fun anyway? Fortunately there are plenty of tools out there that let you create your own mock-ups before they need to go into the hands of designers and developers. These are not tools for professional designers or for large scale projects; rather they are for someone looking to quickly and easily create visuals to explain changes to the other parties involved such as the developers who will have to go about creating the actual variations.
The one I have been using is Balsamiq Mockups, which I’ve found to be very intuitive and fun to use. The comic sans style results may not be to everyone’s tastes but you can very easily create a mock-up that looks close to an actual web page very quickly. Below is a checkout page from Amazon. Note that there is nothing wrong with the design of this page; Amazon tests their website thoroughly so I am in no way suggesting my variation will beat their current page. I am merely going to use it to show how we can quickly create a mock-up to illustrate a potential variation which could be tested.
Although the mock-up does not have the same style as the original page, the overall impression of how the changes could look is easily displayed using the mock-up. The layout of the page, the positioning in relation to the fold, the overall feel of the variation can all be assessed in this way. The time taken to create the mock-up is minimal, but the potential to save time further down the line when these variations get to the real designers is massive.
There are many other tools you may want to consider if Balsamiq doesn’t suit you, such as Mockingbird, MockupScreens, iPlotz, FlairBuilder, Pencil and too many more to mention. It doesn’t really matter which tool you use, many have free trials so you can play around and find the one that suits you best.
With so many quick and easy ways to create designs, you can produce many options and variations before settling on your test choices. If you have a HIPPO (someone Avinash’s Kaushik’s defines as the “highest paid person’s opinion”) who wants to put in their two cents on possible designs, then having a few possibilities allows you to let them get their input (throw some of that weight around) without having to spend time going back to the drawing board, getting professional designs drawn up and going through the process again.
In the design stage of the testing process this ability to quickly create your vision of variation pages, share those with colleagues and other involved parties, get feedback and create new amended mock ups can speed things up greatly. If a developer points out an element of your variation that simply won’t work with the way the website functions then you can make the alterations yourself. No fuss, no waiting—simply amend and resubmit it for consideration.
These tools can help speed up the process, offer the opportunity for teams to collaborate creatively and give other parties clarity when trying to understand how the test will look. The process of conversion rate optimization takes time; ana lysing data, identifying obstacles, designing tests, implementing tests and then more ana lysing of the test results. We’ve found these wire framing tools to be a great way of speeding things up, clarifying our vision and getting effective tests up and running faster. And the faster you are testing, the sooner you get results—and that means faster wins.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.