As a UX practitioner we all know user testing in the early stages of the design process helps clarify and solidify the right way to move forward using qualitative insights but do our product managers, stakeholders or even executives believe in this model of working? Don’t you just design it and it’s ready for the developers to pick up?
Being put on the spot and explaining your job can be a humbling experience, but see it as an opportunity to work on your pitch and nail it.
Often, it’s easy to forget that not everyone is a believer in the work we do. Sometimes our work is often dismissed because we slow down the process of Agile delivery. We’ve all been there, someone in the meeting room interrupted you as you were walking through a presentation of your user research. Let’s call him Bruce, Bruce says says “Well you only tested with 5 people, how is this accurate?” or “Don’t we already know this from the numbers we have?” Being put on the spot and explaining your job can be a humbling experience, but see it as an opportunity to work on your pitch and nail it. So next time a Bruce asks you why you do user testing with only 5 people, you are well prepared.
Start by explaining that there is a proven mathematical model for finding usability problems, where testing with 5 users as iteratively as possible over the course of a project can find around 85% of the usability issues (Nielson & Landaur, 1992) in your design.
Show them that testing with 0 users, will give the team 0 insights into how their product or service is performing. Then explain that as you test with another user, the amount of insights will increase and so on. As you carry on testing with more than 5 users, you will see the same issues again and again so there is no point carrying on, as there is a diminish on the amount of new insights you would be collecting. Being able to clearly articulate that the percentage of insights you find are directly correlated with the amount of users you test with, is the key idea you want to get across.
Don’t rely on stating that 5 users is going to solve everything, because it won’t. Communicate that 5 users is a great place to start, but in order to iterate on your design and make it better you probably want to address those usability problems you uncovered in your first round of user testing, fix them and test again. The more exposure your product has over its ever-changing state, the deeper your insights will be.
So now that you have explained the reasoning behind what you do, it’s important to explain why user testing is so important. Personally I believe being exposed to using testing is a critical opportunity to create empathy for the customer experience within product teams. Observing first-hand how users interact with your product, what works well, what doesn’t and why, as well as your understanding of user’s behaviours, attitudes and motivations is a good way of for anyone to deepen their knowledge of how users actually interact with your products.
At the end of the day numbers matter, especially in big corporations. People like evidence and sometimes people turn to quantitive evidence as the main source of truth because it feels safe. I always like to explain that data tells us the what but it doesn’t tell us the why. Take for example a page in a product that has the highest drop out rate. The data tells us that that page has the highest drop rate compared to all the other pages, but user testing uncovers the pain points users are experiencing on that page. It gives us direct insight into the problems users are facing and therefore gives us an opportunity to resolve those issues.