User Testing

How to Excite Stakeholders to Start Usability Testing

Published June 11, 2015 ⚡ Updated on October 2, 2023 by Stefan Rössler
How to excite people to start with usability testing

We asked our readers to tell us about their biggest challenges when it comes to usability testing and it seems like getting buy-in from internal and external stakeholders is one of the hardest parts for many of you…

What are your biggest challenges when it comes to usability testing?

  • “Getting it to be priority to my company. Right now it hardly comes up on the radar.”
  • “What does the client/stakeholder actually care about when it comes to usability? What behaviors, failures, successes are more important to them? What severity of the issue matters to people?”
  • “Getting buy-in from internal stakeholders is our biggest problem.”
  • “The biggest challenge I face is getting product managers to spend. It sounds like a clichéd problem, but I work with departments who buy into the idea of UX (the bullet point ‘UX Improvements’ tends to appear on many powerpoint decks) but it’s hard to get people really behind the idea of doing anything other than screen design.”
  • “Getting buy in from clients. That is they don’t want to spend the money because they don’t understand or see the value.”

The reason why you struggle to get stakeholder buy-in

There are hundreds of excellent tips on how to get stakeholder buy-in for usability testing. What most people forget is that buy-in is not enough to get people started to change their behavior. Your stakeholders might agree that usability testing is worthwhile, but if you really want them to start doing it you have to excite them about it.

Logic is vastly overrated (though I have to admit, I’m a big fan of Mr. Spock, Sherlock Holmes and alike). Logic does a lot, but it’s not necessarily enough to change how people feel about something, and that’s exactly what you need to do. Even the best arguments can leave a person feeling indifferent about a topic. Indifference is the wrong feeling. Let’s strive for excitement instead.

Excite people by telling them what usability testing can do for them

It’s always nice to have compelling arguments, but to excite people you have to talk to them on a more personal level. Speak to them about what they desire and explain how usability testing could help them achieve the things they truly want.

That said, it’s not enough to build a general argument for usability testing. You have to look at each person (stakeholder) individually and find out what they care about. With this information at hand it’s easy to excite them to start usability testing.

How to excite Designers to start usability testing

You’ll become a better designer.

As someone who considers himself a designer, I had my doubts about usability testing as well. It’s just natural because as a designer I (unconsciously) pride myself to understand the problem I’m trying to solve. What I and many other designers sometimes forget is that usability testing is not about questioning this knowledge. It’s about finding out how easy it actually is for people to understand and use the solutions we come up with.

The immediate advantage of usability testing is to find and fix the usability problems of a design. While this is already useful, the most important reason why designers should care about usability testing is that it makes them better at their job.

Everything we design is meant to be used by people, and the more usability tests you watch the better you’ll become at understanding how these people think and why they do what they are doing. Usability testing will make you an expert in understanding human behavior and that’s what makes you a better designer.

How to excite Developers to start usability testing

You’ll develop better software.

Developers are the people who usually feel the most ownership for a product. It’s because they are the ones who are bringing the software to life and thus their focus is typically on the solution rather than the users and their goals and problems.

If you want to convince a developer to start usability testing don’t tell them about how you’re going to improve your users’ experiences. Talk to them about their software and how watching people trying to use it will help them make this software even better.

How to excite Marketers to start usability testing

You’ll be sure people understand your marketing.

“Customers’ buying behaviors change far more often than their demographics, psychographics or attitudes. Demographic data cannot explain why a man takes a date to a movie on one night but orders in pizza to watch a DVD from Netflix Inc. the next.”
—Clayton Christensen

There’s a misunderstanding among marketers about what usability testing really is. Many of them assume it’s just another market research tool and they get all overboard with targeting very specific users based on demographics and other attributes. They seem to think that if you’re testing the right people you can just ask them whether they like or dislike your marketing. The problem: it takes a lot of time and costs too much money for most business to be affordable.

Tell marketers that the people they’re trying to reach are usually not defined by their gender, age, income, etc. and so instead they want to reach them in certain situations and communicate effectively to build momentum and get them to try (or buy) a product. Describing these situations in realistic task scenarios and watching people use your marketing website is the easiest way for marketers to find out if their message is clear and understandable to potential customers.

How to excite Growth Hackers to start usability testing

You’ll be growing your user base.

For a few years now many startup folks talk about growth hacking and it seems to be at the center of many new businesses. While these people certainly care about their users, their product, and their marketing, their most important goal is to grow their user base. The good news: usability testing allows them to do just that.

Apart from the additional users you generate by asking people to participate in usability tests, continuous testing has one big advantage: you’ll see how first-time users use your software.

Why is this important? Because typically all you have is data from existing users, and while that’s fine, watching novice users will give your team insights about how to simplify your product to make it appeal to a broader audience. That’s why growth hackers will actually love usability testing if you explain it to them that way.

How to excite Product Managers to start usability testing

Your team will produce better work.

Product managers are sitting at the intersection of business, design, and technology. They will naturally be interested in all of the above points, but they usually don’t care about the details since it’s their job to set out a vision for making product decisions, not to implement these decisions themselves.

If you want to excite a product manager to start usability testing tell them how all the other team members will benefit from it. Excite them to give it a try by explaining that each and every one of their team can draw conclusions and improve their own work by watching people use the product and thus making it better. That’s what product managers want. A better product.

How to excite your client to start usability testing

You…well, who are you? We’ve worked with clients for many years now and there’s one thing we’ve learned: If you just think of them as clients you’re missing the most important part. You have to dig deeper and find out who your client really is. Is she the CEO of a company? A department manager? What does she care about? Design? Development? Marketing? Growth-hacking?

If you want to excite your clients about usability testing it’s not enough to think of them as clients. You have to get to know them and understand the situation they’re in to find out what motivates their behavior. That’s why you shouldn’t try to give them a presentation and convince them about the benefits of usability testing. Just listen to them (very closely) and then give them the one single argument to get them excited about testing.

There’s someone else you want to excite about usability testing?

Usability testing should be a team effort and it’s your job to get everyone excited – one person at a time.

I have to admit that the above examples are for the most part based on stereotypes and you will have to adapt them to your situation. Still, I think you get the basic idea which is simply to sell usability testing differently to different people and to use arguments these (different) people care about.

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