Designer as User: Testing in the Wild

Chloe Silver
May 4, 2017 · 7 min read
Photograph by Darren Hull

The Problem

Imagine you’re walking into a conference centre, ticket in hand, ready to absorb all of the delicious knowledge that the speakers will soon impart. You’ve been waiting for this day to come and you want to get a good seat for the first talk, but you note the long line at the check-in area. Instead of nabbing a spot at the front of the conference hall, you’ll be stuck in this line for the next 20 minutes.

Seems comfortable, but how much can one really discover at a desk?

Initial Research & Testing

Upfront research was integral to a better understanding of the problems both event planners and attendees experience during the check-in process. Upon investigating competitor products, it became apparent that events are inherently different from each other and require different toolsets to accomplish goals. For example, the physical check-in space of an event varies depending on the physical layout as well as the amount and types of attendees expected at the event. The choices a planner makes about the check-in experience relate directly to the feature set they would need in their check-in product.

The glorious check-in design.
We use a variation of the rainbow spreadsheet for our usability testing.

Into the Wild

Equipped with the check-in prototype, I headed to a mid-sized Toronto event (around 1,500 attendees) to see my designs in action. The event planner at this conference gave me the chance to check-in attendees myself, which was an extremely eye-opening experience. I immediately confirmed my theory about the experience being as much a physical one as a digital one.

The lineup for registration: it’s so hectic that you can’t even see the tables at the far end of the hall.

Testing Designs in Context

When designing a product which is part of a physical process, there are limitations to how well a designer can understand the problem they are trying to solve. To combat this, designers need to take advantage of opportunities to use their product in the setting for which it was intended. This provides invaluable context that cannot be accessed through the screen of a laptop. It’s important for designers to avoid the complacency of designing in a vacuum, and take the leap of faith to push their product out to test with real users. Learning from mistakes and incorrect assumptions in a contextual setting helps designers to continually improve products and create better experiences for users, no matter which side of the check-in table they’re on.


An inside look at how we build the ultimate Event Technology Platform at EventMobi

Chloe Silver

Written by

Designer, drummer, maker, shower singer. Currently a Toronto-based UX/UI designer. Find me @chloesil or on



An inside look at how we build the ultimate Event Technology Platform at EventMobi