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Free Test: What Do Users’ Memories Reveal About Your Company Homepage’s Design Flaws?

Forget eye-trackers and click-through maps: Zurb offers memory tests to see whether your website design is effective.

Clue app

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What’s the best way to test the effectiveness of your company’s website design? How do you know if you’re getting your message across to visitors?

We’ve showed you how eye-trackers are one cost-effective method to see what attracts a user’s gaze. Click-through maps also have their benefits, charting where one’s mouse is drawn. Andreas Weigend, the former chief scientist of Amazon, recommends sifting through homepage searches to see what visitors are having trouble finding. But to truly understand what your site conveys, why not test a reader’s memory?

A new service by interactive design firm Zurb is doing just that. Called Clue, the tool enables businesses to test its website with “super-fast memory tests” using screenshots to measure first impressions. Once registered, Clue generates a URL to share via email, Twitter, Facebook, and other outlets. Testers will have just 5.5 seconds to view the site, before being asked: “What can you remember about the webpage?” Users can then enter up to five terms from memory.

“If nothing grabs your attention in the first five seconds, you’re probably going to leave,” says Dmitry Dragilev, marketing lead at Zurb. “The idea is to get people to stay on the site–you want people to explore.” Dragilev hopes the free service will create better first impressions. He refers to success in attention grabbing as an Inception-like way of planting memories in one’s mind.

We tried a sample test last week. Of the responses, “Fast Company” topped the chart in popularity, which makes sense given the prominent logo. Next came “Car” and “Technology,” clearly references to the headline article about the EV Vision and our menu options. However, not all responses were so predictable. “Bald Guy” sits in fourth place: Apparently, the image of a hairless-and-squeaky-clean-foreheaded Jeff Zucker was burned onto users’ retina. Colors were also prominent in memory: Many responded with orange, blue, red, or black.

Of course, Fast Company is unlikely the ideal sample site for a test since so much of the responses derive from constantly updated content, rather than our design. A similar issue affected our eye-tracker test, which drew users to a beautiful headline image and a banner ad for Lady Gaga. But Dragilev says the memory test actually works well here, illustrating whether users are drawn to Fast Company‘s logo, headlines, or ads.

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How does your company homepage fare? Do users understand the message you’re trying to get across? Are they too distracted by flashy images and colors to realize the site’s purpose? Do they even remember your company’s name?

Head to Clue to experiment with your website or take a memory test on your own.

About the author

Austin Carr writes about design and technology for Fast Company magazine.

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