Where usability testing fits into your research strategy

What, you don’t have a research strategy? Let’s think about the future here.

It’s not uncommon – and not bad – to be working in the present, reacting to the ever-growing demand for usability testing in your organization. “Ever-growing” is good. But when Jared Spool asked me to do a podcast with him recently to talk about what I think makes the difference between a good user experience team and a great user experience team, it got me thinking.

The recipe, based on my observations in dozens of corporations, comes down to these three main ingredients:

  • Vision
  • Strategy
  • Involvement

Vision is an overused word, but here I mean that you and your team have visualized the ideal customer experience — no limits, no constraints. Imagine the best possible interactions a customer could have with your organization at every touch point. Write it down.

Strategy means that you have a plan for reaching the vision. Over the long term, you can learn about and take into account customers’ contexts and goals while matching those up to the goals and objectives of the business.

Involvement calls all interested people in the business together (and that really should be everyone from management to design to development to support and anyone else in the organization) to embrace the vision and carry out the strategy across disciplines.

But I haven’t said much about usability testing yet. Where does it fit in? Everywhere. Part of my strategy would be to teach as many people in the organization to do usability testing as possible. You probably can’t do all the testing that is wanted (let alone needed). If you teach others to do it and coach them along the way, the customer ultimately benefits as the organization gains a closer, smarter understanding of the customer experience and can make evidence-based decisions about how to get to the ideal experience it shares a vision of.

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