Using User Testing

Posted by on October 27, 2013

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“I don’t care what you think!” Seems like a poor choice of words to say to the President of your organization. But I say it from time to time, followed up by finger pointing around the table at the other executives with the same line: “I don’t care what you think, or what you think, what you think or what I think for that matter. I only care about what our customer thinks.”

In our senior management meeting we often have this kind of fiery discourse about the topic that is the most important topic for our company: the customer. The last time this barrage of “I don’t care what you think” came out of my mouth, the team was having an intense debate regarding the re-design of our Ag website. We had been bouncing back and forth competing ideas, with each member of the executive team sponsoring their idea backed by a passionate opinion. We were getting nowhere. I felt the only way to break the stalemate was with the above statement through which I laid down the trump card: the customer. But how do we figure out what the customer thinks or wants? This was the immediate follow up question, which I quickly answered with a smile “Simple; user testing.”

Now I need to be clear, we were debating specifically about what would be the best navigation system for our customers. If we wanted to know what a customer thinks or wants we would go out and gather opinions which is market research not user testing. User testing is creating a controlled environment and having the test users going through a set of actions and then documenting the results. Generally you are trying to figure out the following:

  1. Efficiency: How fast or easy is it for someone to do a task: such as request a quote?
  2. Accuracy: Are they making mistakes or finding a the right information: for instance if in the testing one of the tasks was to find information on a Grain Cart and they could not find it or found something else instead and did not know it was wrong…well you might have an issue.
  3. Recall: What does the user remember or what is the impression the site gives them. “look away from the screen and tell us what you remember.” An important question to determine what sticks in your customers mind from your website.
  4. Emotional Response: How does the person feel about the process? For example we had users go though our online check out process. This is a process which you want the user to feel secure, non-stressed, and not annoyed while doing.

So we decided to outsource some testing on our current navigation systems to learn from for the next navigation system. We had the users conduct simple tasks (as mentioned above) and comment on the process. User after user went through the same questions and we watched video after video absorbing the results and feedback.

The feedback was consistent, thus relevant and what we learned was priceless; because the users uncovered deficiencies we never knew we had. As well our grand debate about which style of navigation system was irrelevant, our navigation is liked and enjoyed, so why change it.

I can tell you if you are ever debating the value of user testing; stop debating, it is so cost effective you will be embarrassed that you have not done it before. Remember, I don’t care what you think, neither should you. We both need to only care about what the customer thinks.

Steve Whittington is President of Roadmap Agency Inc. He has also served for over a decade as a member of the Executive Team of Flaman Group of Companies an award-winning organization and has over 25 years of executive experience. Steve’s current board work includes serving as; President of Glenora Child Care Society; and Co-Chair of the Marketing Program Advisory Committee for NAIT’s JR Shaw School of Business. Previous notable board work included, Chair of the board for Flaman Fitness Canada, a national retailer, a Director for a meal prep internet Startup Mealife and Chair of Lethbridge Housing authority, the third-largest Social housing NGO in Alberta.

Academically, Steve was an instructor of Project Management at Lethbridge College for seven years. Steve holds a Bachelor of Commerce Honours degree; he is a Certified Sales Professional (CSP), Project Management Professional (PMP), Certified Marketing Specialist (CMS) and (CCXP) Certified Customer Experience Professional.

Steve’s first book Thriving in the Customer Age – 8 Key Metrics to Transform your Business Results teaches about the customer journey and provides a guiding framework spanning all stages of the customer experience. The book explains how every metric impacts an organization and how leaders can best utilize each metric to provide a stellar customer experience. Everyone knows the customer is the most important part of a business. This book provides the tools to improve an organization’s customer experience and drastically transform business results.

Recently Steve’s Blog has been profiled as one of the Top 75 Customer Experience blogs

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