If you followed the step-by-step guide we published last week, you should be able to complete the first part of our conversion optimization research.

In the first part of the guide we focused on making sure tracking was set up correctly and then understanding the numbers, the data and the behavior of people on our site. Now it’s time to focus on qualitative research – going beyond behavior and finding out what our customers really care about.

Here’s what we’ve already covered:

Quantitative Research

  1. Data accuracy check
  • Google Analytics health check
  1. Data Analysis Strategy
  • Advanced segmentation
  • Data extraction [Sampled and Un-sampled Data]
  1. Actionable Data Insights
  • Behavioral patterns [converters vs non-converters]
  • Come up with optimization ideas/ growth tactics

During this part of the research we’ll take the following steps:

Qualitative Research

  1. Feedback, attitudes & opinions assessment:
  • Chat transcripts analysis
  • Open-ended surveys
  • Customer, Sales, Customer Support interviews
  1. UX analysis
  • Heuristics Analysis
  • User testing
  • Heatmaps
  1. Competitor research
  • Competitors assessment framework
  1. Business persuasive assets
  • Awards, Milestones, Endorsements, Social Proof
  1. Customer profiles design (Pains, gains, jobs definition)
  • Strategyzer: The Value Proposition Canvas

Qualitative Conversion Optimization Research

Qualitative research is the process in which we get to know our customers better. Our goal is to uncover their opinions, pains, gains, jobs, dreams and other motivational factors.

At its core, qualitative research helps us understand the WHYs behind the online behaviour we found and come up with actionable solutions.

You could get by with just the analytics and data (AKA the quantitative research) but it will only get you to a certain point.  The truth about your customers, what influences them and what experience should create for them will come from the insights you get with your qualitative research.

The primary parts of this research include:

  • UX analysis
  • Feedback, attitudes, opinions assessment
  • Competitor research
  • Business Persuasive Assets
  • Customers Profiles Design (Pains, gains, jobs definition)

UX Analysis

  • Heuristics Analysis
  • User testing
  • Heatmaps

During this phase, we focus on the user’s experience while using our website.

Our goal is to hear it from the customer, in their own words and use our previous knowledge and experiences to determine how we can optimize the user experience.

Step #1: Heuristics Analysis

The first step we’ll take is a DIY website analysis.

Many times you can locate the main UX issues in your funnel on your own, by asking a few questions.

Talia Wolf, founder of GetUplift:

“I divide my heuristic analysis into 6 sections, grading and evaluating each section individually.

  1. The brand
  2. Design & layout
  3. Navigation
  4. Site functionality
  5. Device
  6. Content
  7. Checkout / Conversion page

During this analysis I ask certain questions about each one to identify pain points and find opportunities for optimization.”

Heuristics analysis doesn’t give you all the answers, however it will give you some optimization insights AND it will help you write better user testing scenarios.

Below are my top questions you I like to ask while reviewing a funnel or a website:

  1. Does the website help visitors accomplish their goals easily and quickly?
  2. Can people easily understand what the company does?
  3. Is the language easy to understand?
  4. Does the information on the page appear in a logical order?
  5. Are the content, messaging and features consistent across the website?
  6. Is the design airy, minimalist and pleasant to the eye?
  7. Is the important information visible and easily retrievable at every step in the funnel?
  8. Is the website error-free?
  9. Is it clear what the business does?

All of the questions above fall under the umbrella of one very important usability concept that Steve Krug wrote about:  “Don’t make me think”.

If you make your visitors think (by being confusing or giving too many choices) or wait (by having a slow website), they are more likely to leave your website.

According to Nielsen studies, for the best outcome from heuristic analysis, have 10 people grade and review the website.

Source: Nielsen Norman Group


This doesn’t mean you need to hire 10 different people to do an heuristic analysis but there a few rules you can follow:

  • Avoid hiring one single expert who works in isolation, make sure they have a few people who run it.
  • 2 evaluators are enough for very small and simple websites
  • 4 evaluators bring are great for medium sized websites
  • >5 evaluators are recommended when you deal with larger and more complex websites

Heuristics Analysis Tools We Recommend:

  • Uxcheck is based on Nielsen’s 10 heuristics, it helps with both making it easier to identify UX issues and doing it in an organized manner that allows you to leave comments and share with others.
  • Five minutes tests [by Usability Hub] helps you understand how clear your design is by asking what people recall after viewing it for just five seconds.
  • UXmyths makes learning fun – they simply collect the most frequent user experience misconceptions and explains why they don’t work.

Step #2: User testing

User testing is the process of watching people perform certain tasks on your website to find roadblocks and issues that are otherwise hard to uncover.

The subject you’re recruiting should be someone in your target audience, and the test should be done on an individual basis — one subject at a time, with you sitting next to them.

Watch this detailed tutorial on how to setup user tests

What you’ll need for you user tests:

  1. Test subjects
  2. Tasks for them to perform

What you’ll often learn:

  1. At what point users drop off or lose interest
  2. What prevents people from taking a desired action
  3. Website bugs, issues, and more.

Writing good task scenarios is not that straightforward. One trap you can fall into is asking subjects too many questions or overwhelming them. Follow this guide on how to write good user testing scenarios:

  • Build tasks that are realistic.
  • Provide details that are relatable to your testers so you don’t distort their behaviour.

Example for a bad task: “Buy a product from the website.”

Example for a better task: “Buy a red dress that costs less than $60.”

  • Don’t provide the clues.

Bad task: “Go to the website, click on cards section, sign in and open a virtual card for your business.

Better task: “Set-up a virtual card for your business.”

  • Build specific tasks so the subject wouldn’t ask you for clarification on what they have to do.

There are two types of tasks you can ask testers to perform:

Open ended tasks – Open ended tasks are important if you are doing an exploratory research. This is especially helpful when  you don’t really know what needs fixing.

Example: Please spend 3 minutes exploring the website like you’d normally do.

  • For this type of scenarios you’ll need to encourage people to speak out loud and verbalize their thoughts.
  1. Specific tasks- These are helpful in two particular situations:
    1. When you already know what features, pages, sections you want to test.
    2. When the product is complex/innovative and people wouldn’t know how to naturally use it.

Example: Create a personal profile for your business on the platform.

With these type of scenarios you’ll need to make sure you don’t tell then what to click on or where to go on the site to perform certain tasks.

How to moderate a user test

The facilitator has the most important job to do during these tests. It’s her job to make sure she doesn’t lead them in a certain direction and more importantly to get the answers we need as a business from these testers. Here are a few techniques you can use to become a great facilitator:

  1. The Echo technique – This when the facilitator repeats the last phrase or word the subject said, while using a slight interrogatory tone. For example, if the tester says: “The payment section looks a little insecure…” you would say: “Insecure?”
  2. The Boomerang technique:  ask a generic question to gently push the user’s question or comment back to her. User: “Do I have to upload all these documents before getting a quote?” Facilitator: What do you think?
  3. The Columbo technique: This is one is about playing the investigator with your tester and trying to get more information out of her. User: “If I don’t finalize the order, can I do it later without filling in the same info?” Facilitator: You are wondering if [pause] you might [pause.]? User: I am just not really sure if I should go with  “save for later” or create “an account”.

User testing Tools:

There are many. I wouldn’t say one tool is better than the other, it depends a lot on your needs, but these are my favorite:

  • Loop11– Great for live website user testing, but they don’t have their own testers you can use.
  • TestingTime– Use this tool to recruit testers. The platform facilitates the meeting (face to face or via skype) between you and the tester.
  • UserTest.io – You can bring your own testers or select from theirs based on a pre-screening questionnaire, not just demographics. There’s no limited number of scenarios/questions or time, so you can go as in depth as you want.

Step #3: Heatmaps

Heuristics analysis and usability tests give you very in-depth and specific insights, heatmaps are another very good way to learn more about your customers.

Heatmaps are visual and easy to interpret. It’s also a great way to show managers your findings and convince them to make certain changes on the site.

Heatmaps are a great way to validating your findings too, for example if you find that a very important page has a high bounce rate, you’ll want to understand why. You try to figure it out via GA and other research tactics but only when you observe heatmaps will you SEE why the bounce rate is so high → people get frustrated by clicking on “fake buttons” and sections which are not actually clickable, so they bounce.

Heatmaps can also be misused, so make sure to watch this interview Talia had with David Darmanin, CEO and founder of HotJar about using heatmaps correctly.

Recommended Heat maps Tools:

  • We love Hotjar because the tool is very easy to use. They also have other features like form analysis, feedback polls, surveys, user testers recruitment and other cool options.
  • We’ve also been working with Crazy Egg, a tool I also like because they allow you to compare the heatmaps of different pages or devices: for example, you can see in the left side of your screen how desktop visitors behave on your homepage, whereas, seeing on the right side of your screen how mobile visitors behave on homepage.

Feedback, attitudes, opinions assessment

  • Chat transcripts analysis
  • Open-ended surveys
  • Customer, Sales, Customer Support interviews        

Step#1: Chat transcripts analysis

Though chats are the moment where clients and potential clients choose to speak about their pains, pinpoint UX issues of your website or product, tell you how your service/product makes them feel and give you new ideas to develop your business, they are almost always forgotten or misused. Analyzing these chat transcripts can provide incredible insights into your customer’s mind:

PainsGainsWebsite issues (UX, bugs etc.)

Chat Transcript Tools   

  1. Olark – There aren’t many tools that enable you to export all your chat transcripts in a aggregate manner. Most of the tools let you download chat transcripts one by one. ONE. BY. ONE. That’s painful from all perspectives. The Olark team is one step ahead, they offer a one-time aggregate download of all your chat transcripts.
  2. World Clouds

Step #2: Open-ended surveys

What’s more eye opening than listening to your audience speak in their own language? I’d rather have 50 responses to 3 open ended questions than 200 responses to 10 close-ended questions.

Ask yourself a few times “How is the answer to this question going to help me take action and improve my customers’ experience?” If you don’t know the answer, better get rid of that question.

“Don’t ask questions that you don’t really care about the answers to because every question is ‘expensive’.” Seth Godin

Here are some examples of the types of questions you should be asking:

Existing Customers Potential Customers
What’s the main pain our product/services solves for you?How do you feel when you are thinking about ……..?
Why did you choose our services/product?Imagine yourself five years from now, when you’d feel great about ………. What must happen for you to feel that way?
Was there something that made you hesitant to use our service?What’s the biggest risk for you to not make progress on this situation?
What are a few words you’d use to describe our product/service to a friend?

Tools we recommend: There are plenty of survey tools, but I think Typeform is a game changer. As they explain on their website: they help you “make surveys, forms, and quizzes that people love.”

Pro tip: If you think that all surveys are boring and no one answers them, check this out. Talia and Karl Gilis had a short discussion on how to write appealing surveys, ask unconventional questions and get a high response rate.


Step #3: Customer, sales and support people interviews

The good ol’ Talking to people technique.

Interviewing your business stakeholders is a great way of discovering new insights about your audience and uncovering new growth opportunities. You can start with your customer support and sales teams, and move on from there.

Often times, there isn’t enough communication between marketing & product, and sales & customer support. So just interviewing the people whose job it is to talk to you customers all day, can go a long way.

Competitors Assessment Framework

The main purpose of this framework is to find out what your competitors are doing right or wrong in terms of messaging, marketing tactics and funnel strategy so you can learn and leverage that for your own business. Fill in the table below to get a better picture of what your competitors are doing:

Competitor’s Website[Link]
Unique Selling Proposition
Top Messages
Call to actions and funnels
Reasons To Believe/Buy
Conversion Killers
Persuasive Assets
(testimonials, certifications, accreditations, case )
Active Social Media Channels
Audience questions (FAQ)

Business Persuasive Assets

I’ve worked with businesses whose strengths were either not mentioned on the website at all or were mentioned somewhere where 0.01% of the traffic was reaching. You can call it the persuasive assets list, the strengths list or the business self-awareness list. What I want to make clear is that you shouldn’t miss any asset that  could increase the conversion rate of your website and beyond.

Persuasive Business AssetsExist on websiteMissingDisplay (When & Where)
Employer Recognition Awards
Innovation Awards
Product Development
Revenue targets
Business Partnerships
Case studies
Experts Endorsements
Celebrity Endorsements
User Generated Content
Press Release

Customer Profiles Design [Pains, gains, jobs definition]

I love Ted Talks.

They are sweet and short. Inspiring and informative.

That was also the case when I watched “What makes something go viral”.

In this talk, Dao Nguyen reveals how BuzzFeed goes about creating any type of content.  The one question got my attention: “How is our content helping our users do a real job in their lives?”

That’s a great question you can ask. And she didn’t mean the 9 to 5 jobs.

Every one of us has many “jobs” to get done on a daily basis. Whether it’s in our work or personal life. I strongly believe in this approach as it brings context to customer characteristics, product attributes, new technologies, or trends.

Watch this step-by-step guide for using the Jobs-to-be-done framework:

Alan Klement gave a very simple example that would apply to companies that produce products for kids:
Where customers are now [The Job]: “Free me from the stress I deal with when figuring out products won’t harm my children…

Where they want to be? [Job is done]
……so I have more time to enjoy being a parent.”
……so I have more time to enjoy with my husband.”
……so I don’t feel overwhelmed.”

And this is what top conversion rate optimizers, like Talia, leverage in their work to grow clients’ businesses. So let’s make this more practical, Check out Strategyzer’s value proposition canvas, you can download it here. They not only provide you with the questions to ask in order to easily find out what your customers’ jobs are, but they also help you find the pains and gains of your audience.


Here’s a brief look of what this process looks like:

Customer Jobs
Customer PainsCustomer Gains
Customer Jobs describe what your ideal customer is trying to get done in their work and in their lives, as expressed in the own words.

Types of jobs:
- Functional Jobs
- Social Jobs
- Personal & Emotional Jobs
Pains describe anything that annoys your customer before, during, and after trying to get a job done or simply prevents them from getting a job done. Pains also describe risks, that is, potential bad outcomes, related to getting a job done badly or not at all.
Gains describe the outcomes and benefits your customers want. Some gains are required, expected, or desired by customers, and some would surprise them. Gains include functional utility, social gains, positive emotions, and cost savings.

Over To You

Now I’d like to hear from you: Which part from our guide do you feel comfortable with most? Are you going to focus on quantitative data from Google Analytics? Or qualitative data, by talking to your customer support team or to your customers directly?

Maybe there are things you don’t know about your customers and their experience, that could have a significant impact on the way you communicate with them (and thus, on your bottom line). Either way, let me know in the comments. 🙂


About Magda

Magda Baciu is the founder of House Of Progress, an analytics and PPC agency.
Magda and her team help online businesses increase their revenues by implementing analytics measurement plans for them and conducting in-depth user research.

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