User Testing

Embrace Failure – or How to Get Over Your First Usability Test

Published December 23, 2014 ⚡ Updated on April 14, 2023 by Markus Pirker
user testing failure

I remember one of our first usability projects.

We were asked by a big Austrian technology company to evaluate the usability of their hardware product. We ran a usability session with a couple of participants, and the technology company kind of freaked out when we showed them videos of real people struggling with their product in various ways.

What they expected was simply to receive our expert judgment so they could finally tick the “usability tested” box on their list of product requirements.

Ultimately, they either didn’t expect to act upon our research, or they weren’t willing to change anything with their product.

The sole purpose of usability tests is that they allow you to spot errors by observing people engaging with a product.

If you want to see people cheering in delight while using your product, then you’re on the wrong train. (Except IF you work in the spirituous beverage business.)

So free up your mind while watching your first usability video.

You’ll see people struggling with your product in areas you wouldn’t expect them to.

What you witness can be surprising and unpredictable. You might hear people asking dumb questions, shouting and or even swearing at your product.

But most importantly, through these tests, you will learn about how people respond and handle your product, and get invaluable real-world feedback.

Embrace failure when watching people struggle with your product.

Every error you spot, every weakness you find, and every checkout process that is broken, will actually help you to improve.

Any error found in a usability test is one you now know about, and can therefore act upon.

Nobody should be blamed for making the mistakes and failures spotted during a usability test. But everybody watching a usability test should become responsible for fixing them.

If you want to learn more about why our attitude to failure in general has to be changed, there is an excellent book by Victor Lombardi of Rosenfeld Media.

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