Fri, Jul 26, 2013

On User Testing

I’m just off the phone (well… Skype) with one of our fellow Heretics who signed up for our weekly office hours.

During our chat we discussed the finer points of user testing and how to make your team of brilliant engineers suppress their instinct to write code before they have done their user discovery, testing and prototyping.

We’ve discussed the topic a couple of times here — Intuit calls this “Design for Delight”:

  • Start with Deep Customer Empathy (“Knowing your customer better than they know themselves.”)
  • Follow with Go Broad to Go Narrow (“To get one great idea, you need lots of them.”)
  • End with Rapid Experiments with Customers (“You can never learn too early or too often from customers.”)
  • Repeat

What is fascinating (and often overlooked) is the fact that you don’t need to conduct dozens or even hundreds of customer interviews, follow-me-homes, etc but just a few. Famed user researcher Jacob Nielsen wrote in 2000 a piece about “Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users”. The tl;dr is “Elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.”

I highly recommend the article and made it required reading for pretty much everyone I work with.

Bonus: Undercover User Experience Design is an excellent book for everyone who wants to learn more about the subject and is looking for hands-on advice.

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