We all like to think of ourselves as responsible designers and researchers. We follow design methods that take into account our experience, we analyse data and we follow user-centred design methods that involve testing with our Customers. But designers who follow design methods don’t commission ALL research that is conducted. Research is often commissioned by project managers, proposition teams, sales teams or others who have various agendas that revolve around saving time, managing scope, conforming to budget, plugging revenue gaps, or fulfilling other less customer or design-centric reasons.
In my experience it never fails that many stakeholders come to usability testing with the question of “will” vs. “can” Customers use their products or services. It’s a natural and desirable outcome of conducting user research. A positive answer can lead to acceptance of a business case, sign-off on a product launch, or pre-mature glory for the product owner and team. A negative answer can help to avert a disastrous build and launch.
As individuals, we have many user experiences over the course of a day. Certainly over the course of a week, month, year… indeed a lifetime. In a sense, we become experienced users over time of many things, and remain inexperienced users of many other things. In some instances we feel we can extrapolate the experience by comparing it to ‘like’ experiences. When it comes to designing apps for use on the internet, software, or web, everyone is an experienced user. At least that’s the impression I’ve gotten over the years in dealing with clients and colleagues. Let’s take clients. They are often made up of many constituents: a business owner, stakeholders, marketers, project managers, IT geeks, editors, business analysts, and possibly even cobbled together components of a web team. Each of them has an opinion. Each of them view digital projects in terms of their own interests, experience, discipline and exposure (or lack thereof) to similar types of projects. They also have their own agendas – which are a double edged sword – that guide their actions.