First, check out this video of Dr. House speaking to a patient who didn’t know how to use an inhaler. It’s a really good starting point in communicating the fact that there are times when users are just….dumb.
Instead of putting the blame on users and leaving it at that, there are times when it is more sensible and worthwhile to invest in finding the issues our users are facing and uncover root causes of their frustrations. Usability testing to the rescue.
If you ask any UX professional out there on what they think about usability testing, I’m guessing everyone will say stuff along the lines of – Awesome, Absolutely critical, Important, The Qualitative Input we got was priceless.
It’s a great idea, and the sad part is when it stays as an idea, and not part of the product development processes. As a realist, I’m a believer that every piece of investment must be justified and make economical sense, that includes usability testing.
So how do we get buy-in to have it introduced?
Usability Testing? What’s that?
Rather than reinventing the wheel, this is what wikipedia says:
“Usability testing is a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users.”
That sums it up pretty well.
Before delving into means on getting buy-in to do usability testing, lets first look at the purpose of doing usability testing:
- Uncovering usability issues and missed expectations – Users might be confused on how to reach their goal, not knowing how to go to the next step, or features they assume would be included are not there.
- Stop and learn – From the lean startup approach, rather than churning our feature after feature, there are times when it makes more sense (even from a monetary standpoint), to stop and learn, before deciding where to invest next.
- Informing decisions – Uncovered issues can assist in informing the feature prioritisation.
- Finding the root cause to problems, rather than symptoms – So rather than investing significant development effort on fixing symptoms here and there, finding root causes make fixing it now possible.
- Clarifying ROI – Providing a measure on whether or not a feature is successful in enabling its users reach their goals effectively.
Getting buy-in to do usability testing
In a nutshell, justifying to get started on doing usability testing would require:
- The right situation or crisis
- Figures on the return on investment it will deliver
- Quick wins
The right situation, or crisis, is crucial
It hugely depends on the situation of your team or company is in.
Why do I say so? Well, getting buy-in to put usability testing in place is almost impossible in the following situations:
- Stakeholder and product owners have absolute confidence that their product delivers exactly what users want.
- Stakeholder and product owners have absolute confidence on the designed solution for new features or enhancements.
- Customer support is cruising.
- The product is making a lot of money.
- There are no customers dropping out.
That sounds like utopia to me. But when if it all goes wrong? Usability testing to the rescue!
Its only in situations or crisis like these, which usually happens pretty often (And thankfully keeps us UX professionals employed), the value of usability testing is realised. I’ll briefly go through the value against each of the outlined scenarios.
- Stakeholder and product owners are uncertain that their product delivers what users want – Usability testing can provide insights into whether users are able to reach their goals efficiently and uncover usability issues and missed expectations.
- Stakeholder and product owners are uncertain over the solution their design team have came up with for new features or enhancements – Usability testing can be done on the designed solution to see if it works with users or not, there are times when its even worthwhile to test multiple solutions against users, to get some qualitative information to inform decisions moving forward.
- Customer support is knee deep in support requests – Rather than fixing problems based on support tickets, which could be just symptoms of a bigger problem, usability testing can at times help uncover root causes to problems. So the next time you hear users say “This feature is not working”, it might be time to stop and observe how they are using the feature, just like in the video above.
- The product is not making money – Usability testing would only work if the problem is due to usability issues and missed expectations, where it can help uproot them. But if its other problems then sorry bro, usability testing ain’t the way to go.
- There are customers dropping out – Similar to #4, if customers are dropping out due to usability issues and missed expectations, then yeah, usability testing can help get to the root of things.
Don’t forget ROI
As part of justifying for usability testing, some figures on the return on investment it will deliver is key.
It can be related to the situation you’re in, for example:
- Dropout rates for an online purchase process are significant – Doing usability testing can uncover usability issues or missed expectations in the online purchase experience and inform decision making to smoothen the process and increase conversion rates.
- Customer support are always receiving a large number of support tickets on features from a module – Doing usability testing can uproot key issues in the module, and hopefully inform decisions to fix it, which could in turn reduce the support tickets that are raised, and also reducing the time customer support staff need to spend.
- The design team came up with two solutions to a problem but are uncertain which one is better – By doing usability testing on both solutions with users, maybe with clickable prototypes, the design team are able to get qualitative information on which solution is better, which can then inform product decisions and give more confidence to the product owner and stakeholders that they’re investing in building the right solution.
Notice that the examples above constantly leads back to the money side of things. Not only is it crucial, its most likely the deciding factor.
If your company hasn’t invested in such activities before, do it only when you’re absolutely confident that it will be successful. If possible, focus on aspects that will provide the most impact in terms of revenue.
Blow it up the first time and it might be hard for there to ever be a second chance.
Do note that this is not a one-size fit all means of getting buy-in to introduce user testing, so please don’t haunt me if it doesn’t work in your context.
Being negative and all, the possibility of failing is always there, but remember that for every battle fought, the important part is learning from it and levelling up from the experience.
Drop a comment and lets to discuss how you are justifying for usability testing in your company and how is it working out for you, I’m more than interested to hear and learn from you.