User testing can be a waste of time and money.

User experience is the new big buzz word in today’s software and web applications. As the market starts to get saturated, it is harder for consumers to distinguish the differences between companies. Software and web applications cannot compete on functionalities alone, hence they start promoting their great user experience to be ahead of the pack. Microsoft has a big section on user experience on their Vista and office 2007 site. Apple sell themselves as the best at providing great user experience.

Every other company now is trying to improve their user experience. They hire usability experts who come up with a detailed report from things learnt from user testing. However most companies would have ran out of budget by the time the report was finished. The programmers get pressured to finish the project and end up in building a half finished job. The report from user testing is just a tool to justify the budget for project and cover their backs if the end result of the project are as good as expected.
The results from user testing can be easily manipulated. Be careful of what you’re testing with in the first place. People often overlook the importance of a good design. There’s no real connection between the designer and the user groups. Designer will design on their own and then someone else will do the testing on the design. What’s worse is the client only chooses what they like personally for the user test. You can’t get a good design from testing bad designs. There are guidelines on achieving accuracy on user testing, but finding a good designer in the beginning is quite an subjective matter. User centered design is an iterative innovation process.

  • Is your designer involved in the user testing?
  • Have you given enough room for your designers to innovate?
  • Did you pick the designs you like for user testing?

Next time before you start a project, ask yourself if you’re hiring the right people to design your user experience.

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