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6 Myths Agencies Believe about User Testing

| April 2, 2015
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Punctuated equilibrium is an evolutionary theory that says as an environment de-stabilizes or changes, creatures either adapt or die. It’s survival of the fittest running a 50-yard dash every million years or so, rather than a continuous marathon for billions of years.

In the digital world where agencies live and where customer satisfaction is paramount, equilibrium has been punctuated. The dash to get the attention of target markets and new customers has reached a pace never before seen.

Marketing today is in an evolving, rapidly changing environment.

Herbert A. Simon, a prominent social scientist, said, “A wealth of information brings a corresponding poverty of attention.”  These are your client’s customers he’s talking about. And this is why listening to them has never been more important.

People still talk. You can still listen.

There are lots of ways to listen to your customers.

You can do your own research (most agencies do):

  • Read reviews of your client’s company on Yelp, TripAdvisor, and hundreds of other review services.

  • See what people are saying on social media.

  • Use analytics to find problems on your client’s website or app.

You can do user research (not as many agencies do this):

  • There are scores of tools out there you can use to conduct user tests on your client’s website or mobile app.

  • You can conduct focus groups.

  • You can conduct in-house user experience research.

  • You can ask your mom what she thinks.

But, is it worth it? Will you and your client really learn something useful from user testing? Is it a good investment?

It’s worth it.

Diving into analytics and doing basic research is usually an easy sell for your client. But some clients can be reluctant to try user testing because they’re afraid it’ll be too expensive or time-consuming.

Today, we’re going to debunk some common myths agencies believe about user testing. This will help you convince your clients how valuable user feedback can be.

Myth #1: “Our clients won’t see the value in it.”

One challenge every agency faces is the “Your Baby is Ugly” problem.

Developing and maintaining a relationship with a client is hard enough. But when you get around to telling them their website, mobile app, ad copy or brochure has some issues—well, even though it’s your job, it can still be a little awkward.

An easy way around this challenge, and a better way to confront the problem, is to let their users show them the issue.

When a client watches a video of someone in their target market trying to accomplish a key action, and the user can’t figure it out, or is confused, or doesn’t trust them, or never even finds them, it’s hard to argue with the need for a solution.

Suddenly, you’ve gone from villain to hero.

Myth #2: “We have analytics, and that’s enough for us.”

There’s no shortage of data in today’s world—your client knows this, and you know this.

Ubiquitous services like Google Analytics, New Relic, Mixpanel, and Kissmetrics churn together a lovely blend of tables, numbers, demographics, and pie charts.  These useful tools give lots of quantitative data and do a good job answering the question of what is happening on your website or app.

Answering the “why?” is more challenging—and often more important for your client.

Here’s what an analytics tool could tell me about my mocha this morning:

  • It was 11.5 ounces,

  • served at 152º F,

  • cost me $3.75,

  • and was gone in 7 minutes.

The same tool wouldn’t be able to tell me the two most important things about my morning mocha:

  • I dumped half of it out because of its weak taste,

  • and I don’t plan on going back to that coffee shop.

User experience testing shows you why your client’s customers don’t return to your coffee shop/website/app. Answering the why question gives you a much clearer path to a solution.

Myth #3: “We won’t be able to reach our target demographic with user tests.”

Reaching your client’s target demographic is important. Clients with specific target markets will want to make sure they’re getting feedback from the right people.

Using the UserTesting platform to run your tests, you’ll have access to a couple of ways (beyond basic demographic filters) to get feedback from your client’s target customers.

  1. With UserTesting, you can create a custom panel of users who are your client’s current customers. All you need to do is invite customers from your client’s database to participate in a study.

  2. You can set up advanced screener questions in your user test to recruit your client’s exact target audience. It’s easy to find users from even the most niche markets through UserTesting’s panel.

Myth #4: “User testing slows down development.”

Ten years ago, conducting user research might have meant recruiting a group of 10 to 15 people in your target demographic. One by one, you’d sit with participants to ask them questions that simulate real-life experiences with your product or service. People would answer the questions, leave, and more than likely, you’d never see them again.  A week or two after initiating the study, you might have some useful feedback, with a big dent in your budget.

With UserTesting, it only takes a matter of minutes to setup a test, and you’ll get video feedback in an hour. Agile teams launch tests with UserTesting in the morning, watch their videos before lunch, and are ready to iterate in the afternoon.

Ultimately, the feedback from user testing allows you to quickly identify issues that will limit time spent developing solutions that won’t work. The end result is a faster development cycle.

Myth #5: “It doesn’t make sense to do frequent user testing unless my client asks for it.”

Meeting your client’s direct needs with user tests is certainly one way to use the service, but don’t stop there!

Getting into the habit of testing early and often allows you to expand your offerings as an agency. You’ll be able to conduct in-depth user tests and market research you may not have been able to do before.

An effective agency not only fixes problems, it proactively finds them. Benchmarking your client’s UX over time against their competition will allow you to stay proactive, which leads to greater relationships with your clients and likely more work.

benchmarking example 1

Benchmarking your client’s performance against their competition will help them see areas for improvement.

Testing wireframes and prototypes before production will give you confidence before presenting your idea (or maybe inspire an even better one).

wireframe example 1

Don’t wait till you have a finished product to test! Getting feedback early will steer you in the right direction.

Proactively conduct user tests to find problems on your client’s website or app. This earns you work, loyalty, and hero-status from your client.

Myth #6: “I can understand my client’s needs without direct user feedback.”

A curse has descended upon marketing agencies. It’s called “The Curse of Knowledge.”

You may have heard of this before (it’s a real thing, check it out on Wikipedia). The curse of knowledge means that it’s difficult for informed people to think about problems from the perspective of uninformed people.

Like it or not, agencies have tunnel vision. We spend so much time on our client’s site that we’re blinded by things that confuse and frustrate the average user.

User tests bring an unbiased, non-related, unconnected third party into the picture. Feedback from a group like this often brings things to the table that otherwise get overlooked.

Listen… or go extinct

Putting your head in the sand and ignoring the conversations your client’s customers are having will cause your agency (and your clients, for that matter) to lag behind and fall into a market that doesn’t exist. Or, to put it in evolutionary terms, you’ll die.

To survive with the fittest, run a couple of user tests on your latest client project. You’re guaranteed to uncover some insights that’ll improve your work and set your client up for success.

If you enjoyed this article, check out our free eBook, How Agencies Can Get Clients (and Keep Them Happy) with User Testing.