Users might look at our product in a completely different way than us. There is a quote that makes a lot of sense after your first Usability Testing session with a real-life user:
“Design isn’t finished until somebody is using it.”
- Brenda Laurel (Ph.D., Independent Scholar)
As a developer in a software marketplace, I didn’t think that I need to have any contact with our users and that there should be a layer between programmers and customers. “Someone more experienced in UX should talk to users” – I thought. What I failed to comprehend was the fact that in everyday developer’s job we make a lot of small decisions everywhere.
By avoidance of talking to users, we create a gap of misconceptions that is widening every day. No intermediate layer of UX experts and business-related team members, or how I like to call it, “middleware”, can point to us every little UI detail and every little tweak in apps behavior, that end-users will not be happy about.
Don’t just take my word for it, try it yourself. What you will find below is shorthand of how to prepare your first Usability Testing Session – written by a developer for developers.
First things first, what you have to understand is why UX is so important in the software development process and how an ideal Usability Testing Session should look like.
Remember all those times when you were using someone else’s software and grumbling about design and functionalities? All these times, there were some developers on the other side who most certainly thought that this software is their magnum opus - the greatest thing that they ever created. Remember Windows Vista? 😊
UX is all about getting real users into your app and letting you look at your software through their eyes. To see how it looks in practice I strongly encourage you to check out Steve Krug’s Usability Testing Demo which was shared for free on YouTube.
Steve Krug is one of the most influential and respected UX experts so his work is definitely worth checking. I also strongly recommend his book “Don’t make me think” which is a bestseller on UX worldwide.
Are you ready to try? Why don’t we make this article practical now and help you set up your first session in 7 simple steps that summarize my experiences:
1. Get in touch with end-users. You can ask your project manager for contacts or you can try to reach them by yourself. Gather e-mails and other contact info and write to them politely asking for their time. Be concise, try to reserve no more than 20-30 minutes, and describe what it is about upfront. Don’t be discouraged! In my case 10 contacts resulted in 2 responses from customers that actually agreed to meet with me.
2. Prepare location, let your customer decide on date and time:
a) In COVID-19 times I went for organizing online meetings via whereby.com, there is a lot of software that can help you with that.
b) To make decisions on date and time I published my free time slots on calendly.com and sent links with possible options to my counterparts.
3. Prepare what you will say when on the meeting which should include:
a) Thanking your participants for devoted time. Make sure to let your client know that you appreciate their time.
b) Asking for consent to record the whole session, mentioning that it will be only used internally by you and other developers in your team. Don’t grumble when you will hear no!
c) Creating a safe space for those who you speak with, it’s worth mentioning that they are not judged, they can’t make any mistakes and they should not be shy with criticism because you want to make your product better and you appreciate their honesty.
d) At the end of the meeting you should include a value proposition connecting your customer and your product. Think of ways you can pay back for a devoted time.
4. Prepare scenarios that you would like your user to perform. It could be something as basic as reading your landing page and telling you out loud what they think and how they understand it. It can be also something more advanced like creating a user profile on your website. Depending on how much time you have you should prepare one or many scenarios. Remember to test how much time they take ahead of the meeting so you won’t take extra time from your user’s schedule.
5. Prepare software for a meeting, test your camera and microphone beforehand. Also, test your recording software for case in which you will be allowed to record meetings.
6. Secure location and time where you will be able to go through the meeting. Some quiet space in your office or home, remember to let your co-workers know that you will be unavailable when the meeting will happen.
7. After the meeting check your recording and make notes as fast as possible. Every minute after the session you will forget more and more valuable details. Share your findings with your team and make plans to act on them in order to produce valuable results. You can also share the results of this meeting with your user when you and other developers will make some meaningful changes based on your conversation.
I hope you find these tips useful!