User testing is important and we [designers] know that.
We are perfectly aware that user testing rules the design world. Why is that? Let’s think about the most important thing behind it: You can test your hypothesis about user needs and you won’t be misguided by the story you tell yourself. Sometimes it is really hard to base our design decisions on our own, personal assumptions. Just to give you an example: try to make the main user persona of a car mechanic if you don’t even own a car, not to mention a driver’s license.
Research keeps us in touch with reality, instead of making us believe in things and situations we know from the movies.
It may be surprising but not every service station looks like the one in “Fast and Furious”. Moreover, research results can correct design and development direction so you can save money and time.
You’ve heard it, right? Something so obvious for designers is not always clear for clients or for a CEO. As for the most common arguments against conducting a study, they go like this:
- There is no time for that: it slows down development
- It’s too expensive
- Our personas created during the kick-off workshop should be fine
- It’s obvious what you should design, this app is for everybody, so for you as well
- “You are a designer, you are empathetic, you know people and you have THAT intuition “
Do they sound familiar? While advocating for user testing you may use the following arguments:
1. User testing is an investment.
We invest time and money: we spent few extra days to prepare and conduct a study but we save ourselves from “total failure” in the future. It will save the general budget then.
2. It doesn’t have to take lots of extra time!
“Elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.” Learn why it’s recommended to conduct small tests instead of one giant study here
3. User testing can be lean and agile.
Have you heard about a guerilla research? It’s a perfect method and a starter for stakeholders who are not convinced about the value of usability testing. “Discovered usability issues can be improved right away and the improved design is validated during the next round of testing.” Thanks to this method, you can get insights in few hours. How to prepare guerilla testing? You can read more about this here and get inspired by Airbnb here
4. It's better to have some insights than none.
It’s a basic principle. If you have no time and no money, you can always test your designs internally within your company. One or two hours of testing can provide you with a constructive feedback! Before our User Testing, we prepared quick interviews with Polideans. After three sessions: with Office Manager Magda, Communication Lead Joanna and Software Engineer Rafał, we gathered a large collection of valuable suggestions. If somebody can devote some time to help you look at the project from a distance, it’s already a lot!
5. You don’t need a super pro design researcher on board.
It’s awesome to have such people on board and learn from their experiences but usually we’ve got some time and financial constraints that we need to take into consideration. Fortunately, thanks to great resources, you can manage to do this on your own! Check out Sarah Doody’s UX Research online course. It will help you to go along with the new topic.
6. We [designers] are not typical users of our products.
We are creators and this means we are unable to look at our products from the distance. We need somebody else to give us a proper, frank feedback (we need to hear from somebody else that our favorite animation is a total mistake, even if we’ve spent 2 days making it.) Sometimes user testing hurts designer’s feelings and we have to accept that.
Not every user testing is a success story
If you decide to conduct research it doesn’t automatically mean you will get some overwhelming results. In order not to waste money or lose your (and your client’s) precious time, you should plan it wisely. The decision about user testing, its scope and form is a business decision as well! Sometimes you can kill the product because of a prolonged and expensive research that brings results way too late and unables quick implementation. Before jumping into the subject you have to answer the following questions:
- What is the deadline for delivering the results?
- Who is the product’s main user, whom do we want to hire?
- At which point of the design process will conducting a test be most profitable: before, during or after first milestone (Generative vs. Evaluative Research)
The correct interpretation of the results will influence project’s success as well. It’s good to remember that: “Not everything that can be counted counts and not everything that counts can be counted" (attributed to Albert Einstein). Something may seem clear at first sight but after some deeper analysis, we can discover something totally different. It’s good to take into the account all the circumstances that could influence a test user. Undoubtedly, well-organized research has a positive impact on the design and protects the whole product from failure. It's worth fighting for!
Research should be embedded in the company’s culture and be treated as a habit instead of being just an exclusive option. Last but not least, you can always ask your boss or clients to check out the most successful design studios or software houses. What do they do? They test! But they do it wisely!
Stay tuned for the next part: a quick guide to accessibility user testing!
- Magda RydigerUI Designer