4 Reasons Why You Should User Test Your Product Early And Often

| April 14, 2015
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If you’re developing an app, you know how important it is to get good reviews in the App Store. And if you’re designing a website, you need to make sure your users have a great experience and understand what you’re offering.

You might think you’ve addressed every flaw in your design, but until you get user feedback, you won’t know how people really use and perceive what you’ve created. TED.com’s UX Architect Michael McWatters put it best when he said:

You could be spending time and money developing features that are broken, rather than doing early-stage testing to identify flaws and revise your design before such revisions are overly costly.

Your time and resources are limited. User tests help you invest your resources effectively, so you can launch a successful product and continue to make iterations that your customers love. If you’re not already running user tests, here are 4 reasons why you should:

1. Increase Your Revenue

Investing in UX research and design can give companies a big advantage. In fact, 10 years of research shows that companies who put human-centered design methods at the core of their growth strategy see a 228% higher ROI than the S&P 500. User testing your product early and often will help you do 2 things to increase your revenue:

Increase Your Conversion Rates

It’s easier to double your conversion rates than it is to double your traffic. Your company might already be running A/B tests, but unless your efforts are guided by real user feedback, you’re just throwing tests at the wall to see what sticks.

User testing will show you exactly which parts of your design frustrate people, where they get confused, and what keeps them from converting. It’s a perfect complement to A/B testing and analytics, because it provides insights into why your users do what they do. That way you can make changes that have the biggest impact on your conversion rate.

Improve Customer Retention and Advocacy

On the topic of human nature, New York Times best-selling author Robert Greene said:

“We will flee what is unpleasant and distasteful, while charm and the promise of delight will draw us like moths to a flame.”

People expect good user experiences these days, and when they get stuck, unable to accomplish what they’re trying to do, your competition is only a few clicks away. If your customers have a bad experience, they’re less likely to come back in the future, and they’re probably not going to recommend your site or app to their friends or family.

On the other hand, by incorporating user input into your design process, you’ll be able to create remarkable experiences. Investing time and resources into UX will help you create brand advocates – loyal fans who not only use your product, but sing your praises to their friends, family and colleagues.

2. Reduce Your Costs

Aside from increasing your revenue, user testing will also save you money. Getting feedback from your users will help you make research-backed, user-centered design decisions. Armed with user insights, you can avoid expensive development errors and proactively address your customer’s problems.

Reduce Development Costs

Fixing an error after development is up to 100 times more expensive than it would have been before. And an estimated 50% of engineering time is spent doing rework that could have been avoided.

These are problems you might not uncover through QA testing alone. For example:

  • Incorrect assumptions about user behavior
  • Features that nobody cares about
  • Confusing navigation

Your developers’ time is extremely valuable. And you can save hundreds of engineering hours and thousands of dollars by doing UX research before you start building, and throughout your development cycle.

Decrease Customer Support Costs

Your customer support team spends all day answering questions and helping your customers when they get stuck. Over time, you should start to see certain questions being asked over and over again.

Dig into your customer support log and figure out which problems your users run into the most. You can dramatically reduce the amount of time your support team spends fielding questions by testing those issues and using your finding to inform future iterations.

Not only will you reduce your customer support costs, but you’ll also craft an experience that’s more pleasing to your customers. And industry surveys show that every dollar invested in UX will bring $2 – $100 in return.

3. Find Where Your Customers Get Stuck

One of the biggest benefits of user testing is that you can see where your users encounter problems and get stuck. For example:

  • Confusing or misleading navigation
  • Problems signing in or creating an account
  • Buttons don’t work on mobile devices
  • Inaccurate search results

As Michael McWatters said:

“Actual humans will expose problems you’ve failed to identify during your design and development process. Even the best teams can’t predict every possible pitfall.”

Keep in mind that your real users will be using your product on different devices, while they’re distracted, multi-tasking, and on the go. So the way they interact with your product—and the problems they encounter—will be different from the issues you’ll find when you test it on your own, with your team, in your office.

4. Get a Fresh, Unbiased Perspective

When you’re too close to your work, it’s impossible to look at it without bias. What matters to you – and your colleagues down the hall – might be different from what matters to your end user. And when you have a real user test your design, you get a fresh, unbiased perspective.

The old adage says that you can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. The same goes for UX. In order to design delightful experiences, you need to understand your users.

User testing gives you the (super) power to see your design through the eyes of your users. You get to step into their shoes, identify where you can make improvements, and focus on what really matters to them.

With this kind of feedback, you’ll be able to design experiences your customers love and want to tell their friends about.

Conclusion

Your customers recognize, expect, and are willing to pay for good design. If you launch your product, site, or app with poor UX, you’re going to frustrate your users and possibly lose them. You can either get user feedback early in your development process, or you can get it after launch – but you can’t avoid it forever.

If you wait until launch to get user feedback for the first time, it’s going to be difficult and expensive to iterate. But if you get it early in your development process, you’ll be able to:

  • Identify the elements of your design that users don’t like
  • Make changes quickly (and affordably)
  • Test again

Instead of building a product, crossing your fingers, and hoping people like your design, run a few early-stage user tests to see how real users respond to it. After going through a few rounds of testing and iterating, you’ll have a much better chance at a successful launch.