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My Mom’s Embarrassing Question (And What It Taught Me About User Testing)

| June 4, 2014
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Yes, this is a true story. An embarrassing true story. And although it will seem unrelated to user testing at first, I promise it will be worth your time.

My Mom’s Question

When I was a kid, there was one question I never wanted to hear from my mom. It was an innocent enough question, but I never had a great answer for it. “Phillip, when was the last time you showered?” (See, I told you this was an embarrassing story.) Every…single…time I would respond in exactly the same way.

Step 1: Stare blankly at feet.

Step 2: Think hard and twiddle thumbs.

Step 3: Reply bashfully: “Ummmm….I don’t remember?”

Then, mom’s answer never changed. And it’s what I now call, “The Shower Principle”: “If you can’t remember the last time you showered, then it’s time for you to shower.”

Apply It To User Testing

As strange as this sounds, those of us in marketing, UX and design should follow the user testing version of this principle.

Shower Principle: If you can’t remember the last time you ran a user test, then it’s time for you to run a user test.

[Tweet this.]

Test your site on a desktop computer.

Test it on a mobile phone.

Test your competitors.

Test people searching Google.

Test your wireframes, your shopping cart and your blog.

I know I’m biased, but user testing is amazing.

You get to see what it’s like for someone to see your site or app for the first time ever. You get to live through their experience and see your site with fresh eyes. You get to have “Aha!” moments!

Yet, it’s easy to lose track of this wonder in our day-to-day hustle. So, just like with showering, the best way to make sure you stay consistent is to set a plan, make it a habit and stick to it.

Setting a User Testing Plan

    Although every site’s testing plan is going to be different, they are usually structured around these five building blocks:

    1. Schedule at least one test a week – By running at least one test a week you help to make user testing a habit for your company. The conversation moves from, “When did we last run a test?” to “What are we testing this week?”.

    1. Schedule big-picture tests of your site on a PC, phone and tablet every month – These big-picture tests will help you benchmark your site over time and give you boatloads of A/B testing ideas.

    1. Schedule tests of your competition monthly – This is one of the easiest ways for you to keep an eye on your competitors and know how you measure up.

    1. Schedule additional tests around big changes – Going to release a new version of your product? Schedule in time to test before and after the release. Going to run an A/B test? Test the B-version pre and post launch. Going to send out an email to your entire database? User test it!

    1. Place your user testing schedule in a public place – The best way to hold yourself accountable to your new plan is to place the schedule where everyone can see it. Since user testing will help your entire company, count on your co-workers to help you stick to your plan.

    Use these building blocks to get started with your own testing plan. Don’t be worried about getting your schedule perfect — any user testing schedule is better than no schedule.

    When you don’t shower often enough, you stink. But when you don’t user test enough, you’re not giving your users the best possible experience. Take the time to make a plan and stick to it — you won’t regret it.