The Do’s and Don’ts of Testing Online Content

testing online content

So, you’ve got some online content… maybe a product demo or a sales pitch or an infomercial, or well, really anything that you’ve created or are in the process of creating and you want to test that online content with a representative group of your audience to make sure it hits the mark. First off, good for you for even considering testing your content. Far too many content creators assume they know how their audience will react without ever even questioning what they think they know, and unfortunately, in most cases, they’re wrong. So, the fact that you’re thinking about how to test your content gives you the opportunity to ensure what you’ve created is resonating and impactful with your audience. But now what?

This is usually the point, here at Dialsmith, where we get a call from someone like you, and begin a dialogue to figure out what type of testing is required and how it can be done. Given our experience testing all sorts of online content, we thought it would be helpful to offer up a short list of important Do’s and Don’ts to think about when you reach this point. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it will keep you on that right track as you navigate through this process and begin to map out your online testing strategy.

√ DO take time to figure out exactly what questions you need to answer about your content and how those answers will inform your decision-making.

Many clients come to us asking for our help in finding out what’s good and what’s not with their online content. But a lot of variables are at play that could determine the right questions to ask in order to get the type of information they’re looking for. As they say, the devil’s in the details. Questions like, “At what stage are you in your content development process?” can be important determinants in the right questions to ask. Here are some more questions you may want to ask yourself before moving forward with your research.

⊗ DO NOT take your technology lightly or tap your teenager for tech support.

Online content testing can be done effectively. But, it requires a good amount of prep work before you even get to the starting line. One of the most critical elements to your success is the technology you use. This is not a situation where you want to roll the dice with some free, basic-level web conferencing service. If you or your support team is tech-savvy then do your homework, test out several platforms and practice some test runs. If you’re not tech-savvy then don’t go it alone. Find support from someone who knows what they’re doing.

√ DO strongly consider dial testing your content. Yes, dial testing can be done online.

Okay, we may be a bit bias, but we’ve been testing content for going on two decades and based on our experience, dial testing is still the best way to evaluate content either in-person or online. Unlike traditional surveys or focus groups, dial testing allows you to capture what your audience is feeling and thinking in the moment as they are viewing your content. Additionally, as opposed to only one data point that you would get from someone giving a single rating to your content, dial testing allows you to capture feedback moment by moment so you can parse out how individual segments, speaking points or product features of your content perform. Go deeper on dial testing by downloading our Dial Testing Playbook.

Online dial testing can be done effectively and deliver similar value to doing dial testing in-person. Additionally, online dial testing can be seamlessly paired with surveys and/or online focus groups or online interviews for a focused, holistic picture of your audience’s feedback. Find out more about Online Dial Testing.

⊗ DO NOT under recruit.

Recruiting for an online study is its own animal. Unlike recruiting participants for an in-person focus group, you have to take into account higher drop-out rates due to technical limitations/issues and no shows. Additionally, there’s typically a higher number of disqualified participants in online studies either due to technical issues during a session or non-participation. So, be sure to work with your recruiter to ensure your recruitment take these considerations into account and you don’t end up short on numbers.

√ DO your due diligence and only work with vendors who have experience testing content online.

As a market research technology service provider, we’ve heard many the horror story of clients who’ve been burned by going with a vendor based primarily on cost. While monetary costs are always a factor, always consider the cost of your time and the cost to your reputation if your study goes wrong due to a vendor who isn’t up to your standards. Do your homework and make sure you’re staking your reputation on a partner who has delivered for clients like you.

⊗ DO NOT skip the Tech Checks.

If you’re conducting online research that involves a live session with participants, then a rigorous, pre-session tech check is critical. We’ve gone the route of developing a participant technical requirements sheet that we pass along to our recruiters so they can share it with participants when they are first recruited. We also make sure we do our tech checks early enough that if we need to re-recruit to get our numbers, we have the time to do it. Here’s more on our Tech Check process.

√ DO consider the participant’s experience and how you can keep them engaged during the testing.

For longer form content (really, anything longer than 3 minutes), keeping participants engaged is an important consideration. If you are testing content like sales pitches/presentations, speeches, infomercials, product demos and so on, you need to build in ways to keep your participants’ attention and focus. Maybe breaking up your content into smaller segments with questions in-between or using tools like dial testing that require active participation could be helpful.

⊗ DO NOT ask participants to test multiple pieces of content back-to-back

Piggybacking on the previous point, stacking multiple pieces of content back-to-back can not only run you the risk of having your participants lose focus but each piece of content can influence how your participants perceive and respond to other content. Consider recruiting enough participants so that each only views one piece of content, or if that’s not feasible, break up your content with survey questions or short interviews in-between and randomize the order the content is shown.

√ BONUS: DO consider scheduling a time to chat with us.

Our team has been helping clients test their content both in-person and online for almost two decades. We’ve tested everything from :30 commercials to 40-minute television pilots to 90-minute political speeches, and anything and everything in-between. So, if you have online content, be it rough cuts, animatics or a near-finished product, that you’re considering testing, come talk to us. We’re happy to answer your questions with no obligations or sales pitches attached. Here’s a form to request a meeting with me. Not a form person? You can email us at hi@dialsmith.com or call us at 1.503.225.8418.

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