Making User Testing Comfortable: Changing Cultural and Personal Attitudes

Making User Testing Comfortable- Changing Cultural and Personal AttitudesFor those of us working in digital, testing our work during the development cycle and measuring its impact once launched can be complicated. We know we should, but it takes so much time, and besides, what are we going to do if we uncover problems through testing? Do we have budget and time to even fix anything? Plus there’s the pain of learning your work didn’t meet the mark, and the dilemma of admitting by doing testing that you weren’t totally sure about what you built anyway.

The fact is, user testing at any stage of the process is likely to improve the final product in some way. I feel comfortable saying we should do more of it. Two ways to make the decision feel less icky are to build a culture of measurement, and to orient toward surprise.

A Culture of Measurement

In Designing for Behavior ChangeStephen Wendel takes on the idea that testing is akin to admitting your initial planning and scoping may have been off the mark:

“There’s no simple solution to address this situation–the need to confidently build something you shouldn’t actually be confident in. The best approach that I’ve come across is to move the testing process out of the reach of that cognitive dissonance. Make testing part of the culture of the organization; make it a habit that’s followed as a standard procedure and not something that the organization agonizes over and debates each time a new feature is added.”

If testing and measuring are part of “what we do,” then we’ve built a process FOR people instead of process OVER people. We’ve harnessed process to yield better results in the end product while creating a psychologically safe space for designers and programmers to engage in testing.

Orient Toward Surprise

If you’re familiar with Steve Krug, you certainly won’t be surprised that he also advocates frequent testing of products throughout the development cycle. In Rocket Surgery Made EasyKrug urges readers to think of testing as an opportunity to learn something new:

“You’re mostly in it for the surprises: the things you didn’t think of, because you’re too close to it or because you don’t understand your users as well as you think you do.”

There’s no shame in surprise.

At a group level, we can foster a culture of measurement. As individuals, we can cultivate an appreciation for surprise. Taken together, these two tactics can help make user testing feel less scary.