What’s in it For You? Three Reasons to Do Usability Testing

By: Brooke Wendt

Have you ever used a website, mobile app, or been to a store where you just couldn’t find what you needed? Maybe the menu items were labeled unconventionally or access to customer service information was nowhere to be found? This happens all the time—but it’s completely avoidable through thoughtful usability testing.

At Citizen, we do more than just build websites and mobile experiences: we solve business problems by creating the right solutions at the right time for our clients. And even the most brilliant strategic thinking and planning doesn’t leave the shop without a dose of usability testing. Here’s why:

1. Tested products save money.

Once thought of as prohibitively expensive, usability testing can be executed on a range of budgets.

For example, if you can’t afford large scale usability testing, you can test smaller groups or use a remote, unmoderated usability testing service to accommodate a limited budget.

It’s always less expensive to invest in sound research than it is to rebuild a website or mobile application when the end product doesn’t perform as anticipated.

If you catch problems early and along the way, you can save on design and development. If you catch problems late in the game, you’ll end up going back through the design process, costing time, money, and sometimes sanity.

2. Make sure it works—your reputation is on the line.

Assumptions are dangerous, but we’re all guilty of using them to guide business decisions. Assumptions about user needs and behavior are often based on what product leads or designers know about themselves. Testing is the ultimate reality check; it reveals the inevitable difference between assumptions and real behavior.

User research methods help define product requirements and fine tune performance before the product reaches its target audience. The last thing you want is to invest time, money, and resources into building a new digital product for your business and have it fall flat. Take for example Sports Illustrated’s website snafu of 2014.

3. Comprehensive results = deeper insight.

During discovery, we learn about our clients and their needs of their customers, who can be businesses, specific professionals or average Joes. As we design, we test as often as possible to learn from these users and observe how they use similar products as well as the product we’re creating. Our main goal is to build something that meets our client’s expectations and the needs of their users.

We believe so strongly in the value of frequent usability testing that we just opened our own usability testing lab in Citizen’s Portland office. It’s tremendously helpful to observe and empathize with the people who use the products we build.

As Scott Brown told the Athletic and Outdoor Young Professionals last August, “Research and testing is incredibly cheap, but building something that people aren’t going to use, or building it twice because it didn’t work the first time, is very expensive.”

Saving money, learning more about your customers and making your digital products as good as they can be for the people who use them is why user research is an integral part of any project.

Illustrations by Senior Visual Designer, Michael Bosyj.