Jakob Neilsen of the Nielsen Norman group has posted an article about how many hours User Experience (UX) people , and others within an organisation should spend each year watching real users doing tasks with your products.
He makes the point that unless you set a goal , or have a hypothesis, and you measure yourself against that it is very hard to achieve anything.
I’ve been an Intranet manager for 15 years and I know how true this is. I also know how hard it is for digital workplace professionals to make the time for user testing. Often at intranet manager meetings the quiet word after the day people had with me was something along these lines “how do I do some user testing ? It is so scary” “how do I convince my boss that we need to do user testing ?”.
Jakob’s article gives you something from a leader in the field that you can show your boss : it says they should be spending 5 to 20 hours per year with you observing user testing.
When I worked for Lincoln University we got members of our senior executive team to attend user testing. They didn’t come for long, and one only viewed the video of the test user being given a task and then trying to complete it. The results were exceptional: All of the people who viewed the user testing couldn’t believe how difficult the test users found to complete simple tasks. This gave the project team the support they required to actually implement things which hadn’t been in the project plan, but benefited users more than other items previously though essential.
How did we get user testing into the project ? The same way you get anything into any project, you ensure there is a line item with some money OR time against it. When you’re asked to prepare an intranet project plan next make sure it contains a line item like the following:
User testing – 5 hours – $1000
You would do well to ensure this line item is in the “fact finding” section of your project. If you can swing it make sure there is also a line item in the post go live section of your project as well, so that you can come up with a list of work for the post go live developer to work on, or for you to propose for phase two of your project. If you’re looking for support Vajra provides user testing services.
How have you got user testing into your projects ? What effect did it have ?