User testing - the ultimate "reality check"

Last week, after a couple of months of design and development, a “lifestyle” web service was tested with a few real users of the paid service. The target audience is dramatically different from our staff demographic. We’ve tested it repeatedly with unsuspecting Futuriceans, but this time it was for real.

Talking with these people is wonderful – they “surf all the time” and feel sorry for “those who don’t know computers”. They have no idea what a “browser” is, and return a blank stare when I note that the “URL is misspelled”. They help us discover dozens of issues unseen by the development team.

In a sense, we become blind to our UIs – they feel right when we test them, in the sprint demo everything goes smoothly, the pixels are all in place and the CSS is clean. Reality is surprising. User testing helps us push the product to the next level, ensuring intuitiveness and learnability.

Having real users visit our office is fun: I’ve heard many priceless remarks about our Post-It-driven interior design. The life inside a rapid software company is a marvel for those who aren’t in the game. We like to have people over!