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7 Reasons Why Usability Testing Will Make or Break Your Next Project

By October 9, 2014 No Comments

This is it. The moment of truth.

You’ve spent the past few months researching, defining the business need, designing and you’re almost done building the solution that should transform your business.  You have done your due diligence; you interviewed end users, created storyboards and mockups, and have meticulously crafted a perfect solution. So why not plan on just rolling it out.  Why hit the brakes and get feedback from real users using it before you say its “ready”?

Because you want to keep your project out of the software graveyard, that’s why!

Usability testing is not just a “nice to have” way to spend your leftover budget. I would argue that it is vital for a successful project. Done correctly and early enough, usability testing will help you uncover problems destined to result in poor user adoption and ultimately project failure; e.g., is the workflow intuitive or does the product even meet the needs of the users.

Here are the seven most important reasons why skipping usability testing all together is a bad idea.

#1) Bad usability is the primary reason software projects fail 

Bottom line, if your users can’t “use” what you’ve built (e.g. an intranet, app, or workflow, dashboard, etc. ), you cannot accomplish the business goals of why you set out to build it in the first place, and therefore the project has failed.

Imagine you buy an expensive camera, but it is so hard to use that you cannot figure it out.  You can’t figure out how to take a picture let alone adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings. Your incredibly powerful camera will soon find itself being listed on eBay or gathering dust on a bookshelf.

The same is true for your project.

Your custom solution might be amazing, but if it’s not intuitive, and your users refuse to use it, it won’t be long before they’re back to email and Excel.

#2) You are biased towards your product

Every parent thinks their children are the smartest or the prettiest – and that is perfectly normal. Humans are biologically wired to be biased towards their creations.

You will be equally biased with your product. On the flip side, we are all more critical of other people’s work.

Your blood sweat and bytes have gone into this project, and it is your baby.  But because you have created it, you do not see the faults in it. An outsider with a fresh perspective might be able to identify major problems.

#3) You are not like your users

The users of your solution are different from you. They haven’t spent the past three months thinking through every button or word on the page. Instead, you’ll find them quickly scanning the screen overlooking the “link” you thought couldn’t be missed, or misinterpreting the instructions you thought were as clear as day.

What is clear to you, is not often as clear to others.

Usability testing enables you to close the gap between what you see on the screen and what someone else would see, someone without prior knowledge or someone new to the process.

#4) Serious problems are easy to find but too costly to ignore

Usability tests allow you to find serious problems early on and help avoid:

  • The embarrassment of releasing software with major issues that could easily have been avoided
  • Development of unwanted or unneeded features as you incorporate user feedback
  • Landing your newest creation in the software graveyard.

Often when watching end users navigate a product for the first time, big issues become apparent, e.g., they cannot find their way home, the language used does not makes sense or a crucial page element is below the fold, and the users cannot find it.

Ask yourself, “Would you rather find out your app simply doesn’t work during a friendly round of usability testing or after you’ve rolled it out to a thousand users?”

#5) Silent complaints are the most deadly

Have you ever had a terrible experience in a restaurant, but put on a smile and secretly swore yourself never to come back again?

The same is true for usability. If something is not intuitive, users will not contact the developer and complain about it. They will just stop using the product.

#6) Watching users makes you better

Usability testing is done by watching real end users accomplish a task by telling what the goal is but not how to get there. The results are documente, and a team of usability experts draws insights from the documentation.

By watching users navigate your application, you can learn how they scan the page, how they click or scroll around and if they ignore important messages.

#7) Every project needs evangelists

Evangelists are the ten percent of your internal influencers who are willing to try something new and understand how this application could benefit the company. They are the quickest to kill your idea or push it through to the rest of the organization for you.

By including those users early on, they adapt an owner role rather than a user role and are willing to go a long way to making you successful.

Bottom-line: Usability testing is an investment, rather than an expense. Companies who embrace early and late stage usability testing have a significantly higher likelihood of succeeding.

Mark Tiderman

Author Mark Tiderman

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