Why usability testing should be part of your design process

Here’s a scenario. We’ve been working with your company for a few months. We’ve spent time discussing your place in the market, user objectives, and business goals. Gathering this information helped us make informed decisions about your product.

We’ve spent endless hours together discussing, wireframing, designing and developing your product. Every day we have been living and breathing this amazing new “thing”. You’re pumped. We’re pumped. We’re all riding the high and certain that we’re steering things in the right direction.

Or are we?

Before we get much further, let’s pump the brakes on the Good Vibes Express. It’s important to take a break from the hustle and bustle to ask ourselves a few questions. Are we making the best decisions for the user? Is the interface optimized for space and efficiency? Are we missing any glaring issues in the UI that are right in front of us? Have we gotten too close to the product?

Now is a perfect time to validate some of the decisions we’ve made. It never hurts to test ideas early and often. After all, designing and developing in a vacuum can lead to a product that’s out of touch with its audience. Enter the often forgotten practice of usability testing.

Isn’t usability testing hard?

You might be saying to yourself, “But I thought user testing was difficult, expensive, and a pain in the ass?”. Actually, it’s easier to get your product in front of people than you think. And by doing this before launch, you’re likely to save a ton of time and money in the long run. Here are a few cheap (and in some cases free) services that we use to get the process started.

  • Peek by User Testing — Free
    Not sure if a particular part of your site or app is making the grade? A quick and dirty review on Peek will let you know if you’re on the right track. You can test your website, mobile site, or mobile app three times a month at no charge. With most video reviews coming back in under an hour, Peek is a fast and free alternative.
  • Userbrain — Starts at $49/mo.
    Userbrain helps you find out what people think, not just what they do on your website. Start by giving the user some objectives to see how they interact with your site. You’ll know exactly what they think because you’ll see what they’re doing. By observing their interaction, you’ll have the tools you need to improve your website.

No excuses

These are just a few ways you can test your product, but make no mistake — usability testing is important. It should bob and weave its way throughout every aspect of the project cycle. And with so many inexpensive options out there, there’s no excuse not to test a few times. But make sure you don’t wait too long. User issues that go unnoticed are likely to become problems sooner than you think.

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