Copy Testing. What it is and how to test UX copies on your product

Copy Testing. What it is and how to test UX copies on your product

User Testing is such an important element that contributes to your product success. I learnt a lot about User Testing in my CXL Growth Marketing Mini Degree. User testing is also important at all stages of your product lifecycle. Any product or service is successful when it meets the user’s needs and is user-friendly. The product should align with their current behaviours, habits and mental models. It should aid the users to achieve their goals and in turn, elevate their quality of lives.

User Testing is primarily the function of the User Experience team and typically, for many UX teams, getting feedback on visual elements is a fairly straightforward affair. UX Teams prioritize seeing how someone interacts with a set of visual components. Writing tests are however often neglected.

It’s a shame that more UX teams don’t put more emphasis on copy testing especially as it is such an important test that affects growth and conversion.

Too many researchers just opt for Lorem Ipsum or rough draft copy, without realizing that including meaningful content would alter the psychological framework of a test, thereby altering the results.

Traditionally, most design teams would approve a copy like this: an editor will make sure it follows the tone of voice, then A/B test two different versions to see which works more. Sometimes a brand team might be involved. While this approach is satisfactory, it does not provide you with feedback on why one copy resonates more with the user than the others. A/B tests give you a binary outcome by telling you which works better but copy testing highlights blind spots, tell you where you are confusing your users or how your copy can convert even more users. The thing is, there’s nothing really wrong with that. But it doesn’t necessarily provide you with specific feedback on which types of copy work, and why or why not. A/B testing that copy will give you a binary outcome: one works better than the other. But it could be missing blind spots where a copy may confuse users, or may only be doing a good enough job.

By not researching, measuring, and testing their content, UX teams rob themselves of the opportunity to learn how users understand and react to various tones, word choices, and content structures. There are multiple ways to do this, but content measurement and testing happen in macro and micro stages, followed by understanding content personas and information hierarchy.

Modern data-driven approaches combine quantitative and qualitative data to tell you:

Quantitative Data:

These questions should measure what is or isn’t working using numerical scales. Questions to get this kind of data includes:

  • How easy is it to understand the message on this page?- testing clarity
  • How much do people care about the information on that page? — testing relevance
  • How badly do they want to keep reading more about the product? — testing Intent

Qualitative Data:

These questions should measure why a copy is or isn’t working using characteristics that can be subjective to each user.

Which words and phrases made a difference on this page?

Which words are missing in describing this product?

What turns you off on the conversion page?

Understanding content personas

Testing initial versions of your product require understanding who the content is for. Just like any UX team will create personas, content measurement and testing require putting words to those personas.

What language do these personas use? Listen carefully to the words they use to describe the product or service in question, and think about the words they don’t use — and why. From there, you can create value propositions and language to articulate the key benefits.

This process is similar to any other user testing process in UX. Speaking with customer support representatives, sales reps, product managers, business analysts, and especially customers themselves, all form valuable input.

The key is to identify the key messages these stakeholders provide.

How to carry out UX Copy Testing

Copy testing is a research methodology, not a set-in-stone process. There is flexibility based on who you are and what questions you need to answer. This 4-step methodology can be used for any Copy Testing method.

Step 1: Develop research goals and questions

Make a list of things you want to learn from copy testing: What is it that you want to know? Typically, you want to focus on uncovering friction and copy blind spots

Step 2: Recruit panellists

You need folks to be part of your study. This is qualitative research, so as few as five people will add value, but the optimal range is around 15 people. Find people interested in your offer (i.e. your target audience) but aren’t customers yet (so they’re unbiased).

Step 3: Facilitate research sessions

Run individual sessions with each panellist. Any video conferencing tool with screen-sharing functionality works. As the panellist reads the copy, ask the research questions you’ve prepared.

Step 4: Gather all the research data in one place

The simplest way to analyze the data is with a spreadsheet. Gather all the questions and answers you got from the panellists. Like any research, it takes time and effort. (The way around it is to use a tool like Wynter, which automates all of that for you.)

Three methods for testing UX copy

  1. Five Second Testing

A Five Second Test is quick and cheap, captures your user’s first impression of the product and includes evaluating screens and copies.

Instructions:

Display a short copy or an illustration for 5 seconds. After each screen, ask users what they see on the screen and what they think the product allows them to do. Take the keywords from the results and see if they match the purpose of the copy. This method helps determine if the content expresses the intended message.

2. Cloze test (or cloze deletion test)

A cloze test is an evaluation test, consisting of a portion of text from which some words have been removed to measure the ability to understand the text itself. That’s very useful nowadays with digital products. Creating, administering and scoring cloze tests runs simply. Cloze tests help you assess if your copies are both readable and understandable. They provide a good idea as to whether the content suits the intended audience.

Instruction:

Select a text and replace every nth word with a blank to fill. Typically, a cloze test requires every sixth word to be replaced, but you can choose a higher n value to make the test easier. Ask the participant to read and fill in the blanks. Calculate the score by taking a percentage of correctly guessed words. Synonyms and misspellings are allowed. If participants score 60% or higher on average, your text is reasonably comprehensible for this user profile.

3. Highlighter testing

The Highlighter test identifies awkward sentences, corrects tone, and it’s also straightforward, simple, and cost-effective.

Instructions:

Select a text and get two highlighters. One highlighter (yellow) means the text it highlights makes people feel confident. The other highlighter (pink) means the text it highlights makes people feel confused. Give the participants a printout and coded highlighters with clear instructions. The colour results will provide a visual indicator of what works and what needs rewriting.

Conclusion

Copy Testing is a complex but important subject. Many User Experience design teams focus on interactive and visual elements, leaving out content until after testing has been completed. Content testing is an ongoing, living challenge that any design team should engage with — both during the design stage, and then after any content has been implemented. Without that testing, you’re missing out on the opportunity to exactly pinpoint what words, phrases, and content people respond to. This means you’re missing out on sales, engagement, and other important gains that directly impact your bottom line.

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I am a Marketing professional passionate about building brands, telling stories and female rights. I also run some small businesses.

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Onyinyechi Nneji

Onyinyechi Nneji

I am a Marketing professional passionate about building brands, telling stories and female rights. I also run some small businesses.

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