You’re launching your new online course, and everything’s going great…until you get this email:

“Hey, I tried to buy the course, but the link doesn’t work…just thought you should know.”

Uh oh.

Imagine, after all the work you’ve done coming up with a great product idea, recording your course videos, and building up your email list…10,000 people have just clicked on a broken link.

This mistake could cost you everything — your students’ trust, your good reputation, and your sales.

You have a moment of sheer, total panic. The only thing you can do is fix the link, and send out an apology email to everyone on your list. It’s embarrassing beyond belief. There’s no way anyone will want to purchase now. You’re ready to crawl into a hole and hide.

There’s only one way to prevent this kind of mistake: Testing.

Testing is the process you go through to ensure every single step of your customer experience — from emails to payment process to course delivery — works perfectly.

It means you’ve checked every link, filled out every form, and clicked every button, spotting and resolving any issues so that your students have a seamless experience.

The auto industry crash-tests their cars, pushing them to the absolute limit to see where their weaknesses are. You should approach your testing process just as seriously. Try everything you can think of to “break” your course. Find the weak spots, identify the issues, and get everything fixed and flawless before you launch.

Why bother testing?

You might think this sounds like a lot of effort for no reason. After all, thorough testing can take hours, if not days, to complete. It requires intense concentration and insane attention to detail. Can’t you just click a few things, see if it generally looks good, and set it live?

Nice try, but…no.

Imagine you’re launching with the intention of enrolling 1,000 new students.

At launch, 1 out of 10 students will have an issue of some kind. That means 100 issues for you to deal with.

40 of those people will have trouble logging in or accessing content.
20 of them will have questions about the content itself.
10 of them will have questions about billing, payments, or credit cards.
10 more will want a personal meeting with you, the expert.
20 more will want a refund. If things are really dire, you’ll see up to a 30% refund rate.

Overwhelmed yet?

If you test before your launch, you’ll reduce the number of issues people have.

You’ll have 5 people with log-in issues instead of 40, because you went through it yourself and figured out where the log-in process was breaking.

You’ll have 5 people with billing questions instead of 10, because you purchased a test product and discovered a billing discrepancy in advance.

And you’ll have 5 refund requests instead of 20, because you tested out all of your onboarding emails and content drip until you made sure your content was delivered as promised.

When you test, your customers will have a better experience, a more positive perception of you, and be more likely to buy from you again.

Trust us: it’s worth it.

The pre-launch testing checklist

Let’s talk about how to test your online course. You can follow the steps below yourself, or delegate the most detail-oriented person on your team to do it.

Whether you do the testing yourself or someone else does it for you, don’t stop there. Always get a second pair of eyes to repeat the testing process. When you’re deeply involved in creating a sales funnel, your eyes naturally overlook small issues or assume things makes sense when they don’t.

Fresh eyes are crucial for effective testing.

You should test at these times:

  • Before any new product launch
  • Before any major promotion
  • Before implementing any big changes

You should test these items:

  • Sales page
  • Purchase process
  • Email onboarding sequence
  • Online course content

And this is how you do it:

  • Use an issue or ticket tracking system like Asana, or make a shared testing spreadsheet in Google Docs
  • Create a new email address that you can use for testing purposes.
    • Gmail makes it easy to add a new address to your existing Gmail account by adding a plus sign (+) and a descriptive word or number after your regular address. For example: if your Gmail address is rachelmariekersten@gmail.com, you can use rachelmariekersten+test1@gmail.com for all of your testing purposes. The next time you test, just use rachelmariekersten+test2@gmail.com
    • You can also do this if you have an email domain that’s administered by Google/Gmail.
  • Go through your sales funnel step by step:
    • Read every piece of copy.
    • Click every link.
    • Notice every single item on the page, no matter how small.
    • Track any issues you come across in your testing system/spreadsheet.
    • Assign each issue a number for easy tracking and describe the problem as clearly as possible. Include screenshots when necessary.
    • Then, go back and do the whole process again in a different browser.
  • Go through your purchase process step by step. (Many purchase systems will allow you to test the purchase process without charging your credit card.)
    • Click on your product.
    • Fill out the form fields.
    • Submit payment information.
    • Complete the purchase.
    • Notice any issues that occur during the process, no matter how small. Track them in your testing spreadsheet.
  • Now, check the emails you receive after purchasing.
    • Did you receive the correct confirmation email?
    • Do all elements of the email look correct?
    • How do the rest of the onboarding sequence emails look?
    • Do the links in every email work? Is the sender name correct? Do the images display properly?
    • Track any issues you notice.
  • Now, it’s time to test your actual product.
    • Log in to your course platform. Do your credentials work?
    • Click on every link in your course, and fill out every form field. Do things happen the way they should?
    • Play all of your course videos. Are they embedded properly? Do they play without error?
    • Make sure everything inside your course is in tip-top shape, and track any issues that you notice.
  • Resolve any issues you find during testing:
    • Make any adjustments you can make yourself.
    • Share the results of the testing process with your team, and assign who will fix what issues.
    • Check in to ensure issues are resolved.
    • Contact platform vendors for additional assistance if necessary.
    • Go back and double check that everything has been fixed. Go through the entire process again, from start to finish.
    • If you notice any bumps in the customer experience that can’t be changed, create an FAQ that tells your students exactly how to avoid these issues and work around them.

The other big benefit of testing

There’s no denying it: this checklist looks like a lot of work, and that’s scary to some people. But we’d never let any of our clients push their new product live without exhaustive testing.

Why?

When you make the effort up front, you save time and money in the long run.

Advance testing reduces customer issues, which in turn saves you big bucks on customer support costs. For every minute of testing time you put into your course before you launch, you’ll save ten minutes of customer support time after launch.

That alone should convince you to test before your next launch.

When you test, you show your students that you care about them. You’re giving them a high quality experience that’s been thoroughly vetted. You’re eliminating their challenges and making their life easier. All of that adds up to fewer refunds, more satisfied customers, and lower customer support costs for you.
Remember: never launch until you test!

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