Smoothly Introduce User Testing to your Organization

Most business folks these days have heard about and seen the positive benefits of running a user centric business. Focusing on and progressively enhancing the user experience of a business and/or product is our current wave of innovation. Most of the big guys are dong it, and the benefits gained have become clear.

With such clear business results and long term benefits, we like to assume that everyone is testing with real users. The truth is not so pristine. Countless organizations are still struggling to introduce a focus on their user experiences. I believe this persists because iI know that it’s an undoubtedly difficult task to introduce user testing to an unfamiliar organization.

Luckily for you, it has already been introduced successfully to hundreds of other organizations all over the world. It’s very possible and need not be difficult. I’d like to outline three simple methods that, when undertaken together, will enable you to smoothly transition your organization into one that champions the end user’s needs and perspective.

Allow yourself the benefits of trying, failing and trying again.

Start Small

Rome wasn’t built in a day and you must likewise realize that this won’t happen overnight. It will take time for your organization and management structure to understand and accept the benefits of regular user testing. It will also take time for you to get it right. Allow yourself the benefits of trying, failing and trying again. No two businesses are the same and thus the user testing needs of each will vary hugely. There are countless factors and unique considerations that you’ll need to take into account, over time.

Get Familiar

So, what to do first? Simply put, get familiar. Understand the basic concepts, vernacular and processes of user experience research and usability testing. You want to be at a point where you can talk about user experience and speak to the ideologies behind it confidently and with authority.

Keeping the start small mentality in mind, I recommend new folks to do this though some light reading and conversations around the subject of user experience design and usability testing. In practice, I mean reading the fantastic books by Steve Krug and getting involved with a local design community of some sort.

Read Up

Grab a copy of Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think book. This is the entry bible to usability testing. It’s packed with approachable, useful and practical steps to test designs and software. Krug really focuses in on practical approaches to user testing.

Additionally, the book goes into all of the statistical details behind the numbers needed to prove things through testing. Take to heart some of the harder facts that he talks about including the 80/20 rule.

With this book under your belt, you’ll be bootstrapping user testing sessions within your organization in no time.

Meet Up

Get out of your comfort zone and attend a local gathering of like-minded folks. At the meet up and in your other related conversations, focus on being a sponge of information. Soak everything in, the words, the way people talk about subjects, the methods discussed etc.

Recall and recount the results that others are speaking to and how user testing has impacted their products. By doing so, you are building up a few use cases mentally that you can speak to in the future. You’ll need to slowly become a spokesperson for user testing within your organization, so this type of first hand knowledge will aid in strengthening your future reasoning.

Take Action

Ok, now that you have some knowledge, it’s time to put it to work and start walking the walk. Knowledge without action is nothing at all. Put what you’ve learned in motion, even if it’s just barely scratching the surface of the user experience field. Start doing shit. This is the point at which your knowledge and understanding of the subject is going to expand tenfold.

Put what little you know into action. More learning will follow.

Start with small actions. Take a disagreement or current problem that you’re team is working to solve and run a small usability test. Use a cheap or free method described in the book or a lightweight online tool like Usability Hub to start out with low overhead. You have the underlying knowledge of user testing, so run a few exemplary tests that can prove statistically important results by their end.

Paper prototyping and grabbing people in a local cafe works just as well. The key point to this step is that you put into practice what you’ve learned. Getting your team involved at this point can be hugely beneficial as well. You’ll have to teach others about user experience points and how it will improve your product. Teaching others forces you to learn more yourself, so teach anyone who will listen and use this to your advantage.

Publicize Process

The best work comes out of collaboration. Don’t be working in a silo through this process. You’ll find that user testing and other disciplines within the user experience field are highly collaborative. Your new process will effect most folks across your team and up your management chain in some way.

This is an incredibly powerful part of the process, so embrace it. get everyone possible involved, especially if they show interest in what you’re doing . there’s always room for another person to observer ant take notes for you! it can be an eye opening process for those new to the agile user experience design processes. share this.

Show your work by Austin Kleon is another inspiring book.

By being open and public about your work and process, it encourages others to get involved naturally. There is a certain excitement to putting real users in contact with you unfinished work and gauging real reactions. It cuts out the bullshit and gets your team real answers and a driven focus.

Publish your testing results around the office. Print and hang the findings, bring up the results in your meetings. I’ve even built terribly ugly html pages and left them open at all times on my monitors just to spark the conversations that need to happen! Whatever it takes, let it be known to everyone what you are doing, how it works and why the results are so important to the larger company.

the time showing the results. statistics. find pt how your team internalizes results, whether it’s visually, audibly or something else entirely and focus on that channel. hell, focus on all of the channels.

What’s next? Scale up the tests, get more folks involved and continue the beautiful cycle. Then, do it again. Go forth and build. Cheers.

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