Customer Usability Testing: How going straight to the horse's mouth reduces commercial risk and retrospective updates

All proposed solutions have the best interests of users in mind. As we get further into a project build we naturally make assumptions about how users will interact. User testing allows us to validate these assumptions and gather detailed insights. It helps us understand whether the proposed solution meets the needs of the user (identified in the research phase) to achieve key goals.

One of the ways we ensure we get it right is by gathering insight from end-users themselves. This sounds laughably simple. But all too many digital project teams don’t do this. Instead, the teams ask their clients (rather than their client’s customers) what their customers want. You can see how things get confusing. Even writing about it is a challenge!

To simplify, if we’re working with company A on a digital transformation project, we believe its more enlightening to gather insight from company A’s customers about how they want to interact with company A, rather than simply asking company A how it thinks its customers might want to interact. That is, we believe there’s huge value in going straight to the horse’s mouth to perform usability testing.

This isn’t always straightforward. We’ve been met with some understandable objections, not least that ‘our customers are way too busy to tell you what they think’. But in line with the old maxim ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, the benefits of getting things right early can’t be underestimated.

Getting things right...

Getting things right first time is every project team’s dream. Getting things right as soon as is humanly possible is the next best thing, saving time, money and more. Going direct to the end-user allows project teams to fail fast and fail smart. Building, measuring and learning helps teams truly understand the customer need at the earliest opportunity.

Even when access to end-users has been granted, it’s not always plain sailing. This type of feedback can be bruising: end-users need little encouragement to tell it exactly like it is. Even elements of the product or service that were previously considered uncontentious may be rejected in no uncertain terms. But therein lies its value.

Forms of end-user testing include cost-effective ‘guerrilla’ techniques, which involve a random sample of users, or more traditional but sometimes time- and cost-prohibitive face-to-face testing. Think hard also about sample type and size, as well as what you actually test. We’ve found that putting wire frames in front of end-users increases the speed of obtaining feedback even further.

On a recent international digital transformation project, we favoured remote user testing, allowing us to achieve a good geographical and business-type spread. Via an online tool, we asked end-users to complete 20 to 30-minute tasks and recorded the audio and visual results. It was fast, enlightening and significantly reduced commercial risk for our client, and the need for retrospective updating.

About the Author...

Rich heads Answer Digital Retail, delivering world class solutions to clients including Costcutter Supermarkets Group, FCUK, Arcadia and Ramsden International. Richard has a passion for retail and the transformational impact technology is having on customer experiences.