User testing

Week 28.

I read an article on UX recently, about companies designing their products for themselves rather than their clients. He in turn was referencing Know Your Customers’ “Jobs to Be Done”. This works on the premise that “We all have many jobs to be done in our lives. Some are little; some are big. When we buy a product, we essentially “hire” it to help us do a job. If it does the job well, the next time we’re confronted with the same job, we tend to hire that product again. And if it does a crummy job, we “fire” it and look for an alternative.”

This prompted me to think back on some user testing recently carried out on a clients website. I’m a big fan of the idea of user testing. I think it is essential to designing a product or experience. It keeps the team focussed on the user.

I have however heard and experienced times where user testing has not been conduct in the right manner. There have been times where project managers have tried to use it to back up personal assumptions, and times where designers have been so personally invested in the product they discount the feedback they’re getting.

The best way I’ve seen user testing performed is with clear, short paths to complete. The tester is accompanied by a interviewer/guide who collects their feedback as they progress through the actions. If the tester struggles in anyway the interviewer is there to help. Keeping the tasks short and sweet helps to get more focused feedback. It also helps if the designs/prototypes are more low-fi so that the user doesn’t get too hung up on trivial design issues (i.e. “I don’t like blue!”).

While previously conducting some user testing with a client it transpired the action points from the session were from the boss, rather than the users. This relates to the idea of designing a product not for your user, but for yourself. The feedback is therefore not focused on what the user thinks or feels, but on what the client wants to shoehorn in, which feels somewhat self-defeating.

When done right though, this is a very useful tool that benefits the user and helps create a better final outcome.

Some music from this week

  • I Will Follow You Said The Whale
  • Running into Love Taylor Knox
  • Johnny and Mary Robert Palmer
  • Baby I’m Broken The Record Company
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