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Userbrain Backstage: Making Usability Testing a Habit

by Stefan Rössler on March 31, 2016 –

Want to learn more about how we started Userbrain, how we work, and our future plans and projects we have in store?

If so then this Founder Talk interview we recently did with the lovely Sabine Elsässer, the co-founder of Startup Valley News, will be a good read.

She got to know us and our path to where we are right now, along with what Userbrain is all about and what we set out to achieve with it.

Here’s what she asked and what we talked about:

Please introduce yourself and your startup Userbrain

Userbrain is a team of 5 people (Andreas,Stefan, Markus, Mathias, and Iva) who want to change the world … of course. Why else would you want to found a startup 😀

To give a more precise answer: We want to change the way how people build websites and web-based products and services.

How?

By making user feedback an expected part of their workflow, and thus helping them constantly improve their user experience.

We send our customers video and audio recordings of real people testing their websites, web apps and prototypes every week.

They’ll see where users struggle on their site and find out how to improve their product and make it easier for new users to adopt.

How did the idea of Userbrain evolve and how did you get together as a team?

The original idea came from our client business. Four of us started a user experience agency called Simplease in 2010.

As Simplease, we helped many small and large companies alike to improve their products with user research, iterative design and user testing. From a Simplease perspective, things were running great.

Our clients saw many positive effects and were happy to work with us (they still are).

But one thing bothered us:

If product teams hire outside experts to take care of the testing, they will waste a great opportunity to learn about user behavior and how to improve their solutions on their own.

That’s why we wanted to create a simple way for busy agile teams to do user testing for themselves.

And we wanted this service to be affordable, so that as many people as possible can experience the power of constant user feedback and make it a habit.

What service are you offering?

Best gifts for UX designers - Userbrain subscription

We send you videos of new people testing the usability of your website or web app every week.

Userbrain doesn’t require any coding or testing knowledge.

You just enter the URL you want to test and we will help you set up your first test and get going.

Our users will record their screens and voices while testing your site on their own phones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.

You get short videos (usually 5 to 15 minutes) and you can download them or use a link to share them with your team.

You can write your own test scenario and tell our users what you want them to do and ask them questions about your product or service.

Here’s an example video if you want to see it in action.

What have been the biggest challenges to get from the idea to starting, and how have you financed yourself?

The biggest challenge to get from the idea to finally start is to understand that you can already start.

Now!

It took us years to realize this…

The idea of Userbrain came up 2 or 3 years before we finally launched our marketing website at the end of 2014.

We only worked on it for 4 days and all we had were 3 pages explaining Userbrain and a sign up where people could transfer their money to our PayPal account (we didn’t even have a way to accept credit cards back then).

The rest of the service didn’t exist.

We simply wrote an article explaining why Userbrain is different than other user testing services and promoted it on Designer News.

All we wanted was people to go on our website to hope that anyone leaves a comment—or maybe even signs up to Userbrain. Some people actually did, and now we had to find a way to deliver our service, so these people really get what they have paid for.

As I said before, we’re sending our customers video and audio recordings of people testing their website every week.

Today our users record their videos with our iOS app and our Google Chrome extension. But in the first few weeks we didn’t have any of these tools. We just created an ad and asked people on freelancing platforms to record themselves (with their own tools) and we paid them for uploading their videos.

We didn’t need any financial investments whatsoever to make this work. All we needed was to invest our time. And even today we rely only on ourselves.

Who’s the target audience of Userbrain?

userbrain audience - agile teams

Generally – Userbrain is for people who want to build user-friendly websites and web apps, and get a user’s perspective throughout all development cycles.

And today products are always in development…

That’s why Userbrain is great for product teams and SaaS businesses—it’s lightweight and informative, comes to you week after week and it requires a lot less effort than comparable services.

Our customers are owners of e-commerce sites who want to simplify and optimize their sites for conversion, startup founders who want to see if people understand their websites, product managers who want to provide their team with constant user feedback so that they constantly improve their product.

The one thing that connects them is that they all want their product to be easy to use, intuitive, user-centric.

They may be in different situations and have different reasons why they use our service, but they all want to improve their user experience.

How much does it cost?

Userbrain starts at $29 per month.

Our smallest plan includes one video of new people testing your website every month. That’s the least you can do.

Our favorite plan includes one video every week and it’s only $49 per month; that’s less than $12 per video!

Additionally we offer 6-packs of videos for $90 if you ever need more user feedback at once.

On top we offer a 3-video/week plan for $149 per month.

You can cancel, pause, upgrade, or downgrade your account at any time without any additional fees.

Plus, we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee on all plans.

Here’s an overview of our prices.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in 5 years from now?

Our next steps include implementing video annotations for better team collaboration, and formatting options for the test scenarios.

Besides that we are dedicating more time to the promotion and overall growth of Userbrain.

Some of our customers are paying for over a year now, and this validates that we’re providing a useful service.

Now we need more people to know about this service, so they can start using it as well.

And as we grow our customer base, we have more resources to keep improving Userbrain and provide even more value.

For example, we are soon starting a Usability Teardown series.

In the Teardowns we:

  • Take a website,
  • Do a usability test for it,
  • Show how to set up the tasks and scenarios for testing,
  • Present the test with annotations that point out important insight,
  • Add recommendations for how to improve the sites.

We test something new each week and keep posting the videos on our blog, video sharing platforms and on social media.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone.

Our audience and customers will see the simplicity and power of testing, with Userbrain and in general, how to set up tests, and what to pay attention to in them.

We know that 2 people watching the same test will find different insight in it. That’s why its great to watch what other people extract from tests.

2 people watching the same user test will always find different insight in it. Click To Tweet

We will have guest test observers. They will usually have a background in UX design of Product Management & Design, and they will show their insight and provide their professional advice for improvement.

And the sites that we are testing, which will be determined by votes from the audience or special requests from the guest, will get a free usability evaluation of course.

This will be fun to do, and fun to watch, and we hope that one day the Teardown posts can evolve into a Video Series, providing full educational and entertainment value, because usability tests are really fun to watch.

It’s fun to watch people interact with websites and observe their thought processes.

User testing is a window into users thoughts on your products and that is so amazing to watch!

User testing is a window into user's thoughts on your products and that is so amazing to watch! Click To Tweet

If we succeed at making the series popular, then we will be much closer to our goal of getting everyone to see the value of testing and thus make it a regular part of their workflow.

A habit.

Finally: Any tips you’d like to share with aspiring founders?

The biggest challenge is to know what you should do.

Seriously!

The moment you found a startup, you’ll be confronted with a myriad of duties and possible things to do.

And even if you’re backed by investors, you will never be able to try everything that’s on your plate.

You have to decide what’s really important.

The best way to do this is by focusing on the things that won’t change. This tip is from Jason Fried, co-founder of Basecamp and I’ll leave you with an excerpt of his blog article from 2007:

The best business advice I’ve ever heard was this:
“Focus on the things that won’t change.”
Today and ten years from now people will still want simple things that work.
Today and ten years from now people will still want fast software.
Today and ten years from now people will still want fair prices.
I don’t believe we’ll have a “I want complex, slow, and expensive products” revolution in 2017.