One of the most common mistakes I see with businesses is the failure to test their products, sites or launches in advance of the day the product goes live. Why in the world would you go through all that effort, pouring your heart and soul into your Big Idea without testing to make sure potential customers have a smooth experience?
The Eleventh Hour Syndrome
Neglecting testing can have disastrous results. You might have bugs on your site that hinders perfect viewing, your documents might not upload, download or open properly, your autoresponder emails might not work as you thought, or you might be missing some very important detail.
If you just let your event go off with a wing and a prayer, you’ll lose credibility when there’s a hitch. The consumer experience has to be a good one. When something goes wrong while you’re trying to make a sale or create that first impression, your audience loses faith.
A negative consumer experience is not good. Word gets around fast, and sometimes all it takes is one frustrated customer to say shouting they weren’t satisfied. Then you’ve blown everything. A second shot at a first impression is not an option.
Measure Twice, Cut Once
Nobody’s perfect. (Not even the Pen Men.) Before we release anything to the public, no matter how big or small, we spend time testing everything, sometimes even for weeks or months.
Is it tedious? Is it time consuming? You betcha. But you know what? When it all goes off with as few hitches as possible, you’d better believe it’s worth it.
Here are some tips to consider when test driving your next launch:
- Go through your purchase process as if you were a first-time visitor or customer. Fill out your forms, buy, send the confirmations to yourself, walk yourself through every step from beginning to end. Could the process be simplified? Is there anything unclear or confusing? If so, fix it. Then get an impartial friend to try the process as well.
- Get feedback from people you trust. Don’t ask mom, don’t ask dad, don’t ask your significant other. Choose people who have a good eye for detail and won’t try to spare your feelings. You need people who are going to tell you the truth. You’re under no obligation to make every change they might suggest, but view the criticism with an open mind and with open eyes for what seems reasonable.
- Ask your target audience what they want. You may not be able to please everyone, but you can gather enough information to pinpoint and accommodate consumers and potential customers. Your target audience is key. Figure out what they want, provide it and you’ll end up with a successful launch.
- Leave nothing to chance. Find out the parameters for the products you’ll be selling, whether it’s the size of the file or specific settings you need to have in a PDF or a video clip. This goes for any type of media delivery, including print. Ask the printer for the required specs. Do they prefer Quark or InDesign? Do they want .ai or .eps? Is a word.doc sufficient? Details, people, details.
- Make sure your equipment and programs are ready. Converting a word.doc to PDF has annoying quirks that you might not be aware of if you’ve never tried it before. Make sure you know how to export your files to the proper formats well in advance just in case you have to Google a solution or call your designer buddy to help you figure out a way around the glitch.
- For new websites and design launches, test your new look at browsershots.org before you go live. Internet Explorer (IE) in all its incarnations is the bane of every web designer’s existence. Your site might be perfect in Safari or Fire Fox, but it might be a disaster in Internet Explorer. If you don’t check to make sure, your site launch might be a wreck.
- Make sure you cover your ass. It couldn’t hurt to check with a lawyer to know how to word the proper disclaimers or notices. For example, when we came up with the Sticky Business Contest (Have you entered yet?), we had to deal with monstrous legalities and red tape. Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to the law. Don’t guess or think your contest isn’t big enough or your viral ebook isn’t important enough to require legal disclaimers.
Give yourself plenty of breathing room and don’t wait until the last minute to fix problems – and definitely don’t wait until you’ve gone live. Testing and re-testing is what makes you appear a professional and not some novice. Even if you are a novice, you certainly don’t have to look like one to the world.