The Importance of Being Earnest (About User Testing)

Designers miss things, from time to time, which is why we build user testing into every proposal we put in front of a potential client. Pushing a website or an application into the wild without proper user testing is like buying your teenager a new Ferrari and hoping they take speed limits seriously. You’ve got a lot invested in this project, so let’s make sure everything works, right?

Let’s not just make sure it works, let’s make sure it works well. That means more than one session of user testing over the course of the entire design process. Generally speaking, we like to do at least three series of tests: one session for the prototype, one session for the final design ideation, and one session on a staging server. Without those usability sessions, you’re just flying blind through parts of the process that will ultimately shape your user’s experience. With those usability sessions, we can encourage a more agile design environment that is based on the science of human computer interaction (HCI), tangible results with real data to back it up!

Often times clients will want to skip these tests either because they want to spend more on functionality or because they simply want to keep costs low. Here is a list of four reasons why you shouldn’t skip user testing:

  1. You can never assume how or why your audience is using your website.
  2. Our own experience blinds us to certain design flaws that a fresh set of eyes might notice.
  3. As the marketplace and our culture changes, so do the expectations of your users.
  4. No user test that we have conducted has ever been without surprises.

It all boils down to the fact that no matter how good of a designer you think you are, you’re not going to hit every nail on the head. Doing recursive user experience testing over the course of the creative process (and the lifetime of your website) allows you to size up the nail, feel the weight of the hammer, and make that connection between you and your users.