A lot of times we get really fancy when we need to do things like “usability testing.”

Someone I trust recently described a great way to do usability testing for your website for just $30.00.  

1.  Pick three of your friends who you don’t work with.  
2.  Give each of them $10.  
3.  Sit down with each of them in turn, and ask them to make a donation on your website, but don’t give them any instructions. 
4.  Watch what they do, and take notes.

How long does the process take them from start to finish? 
Do they find you by searching in Google? 
Do any of them fail to make a donation?
Do they get sidetracked by anything? 
Do they look frustrated? 
Does any part of the process confuses them? 
Where do their eyes go when they reach your website?

You can learn more by spending $30 in this way than you can by spending weeks or months thinking about the way that you think your website should work.  And even if your web site doesn’t have anything to do with donations, you can still learn a lot from an informal focus group like this.

Because when it comes to the user-experience of your web site, what you think is just a guess until you ask.

Will Marlow is the co-creator of AlumniFidelity, which helps schools and nonprofits improve their online fundraising results with peer-to-peer, social-based fundraising.  Email him at will@alumnifidelity.com.