If you’ve clicked this far to find out the actual price your business pays by not user testing, the answer is a whopping $300 million, at least.
The actual price could be more, but this is just based on the highly-publicised true story in 2009 from Amazon.com, the giant e-commerce retailer that needs no introduction. This story is widely known as the “$300 Million ‘Continue’ Button”.
Long story short, the e-commerce player found a bottleneck in its checkout process. Users were asked to log in or register an account after checking out their cart.
Usability tests were conducted and the results were shocking. It turned out that users (both first-timers and returning users) were reluctant to log in or register to complete their purchase. The result of this anomaly was a $300 million worth of cart abandonment. Later, the designers fixed the problem simply by taking away the Register button and replacing it with a Continue button.
The result? The number of customers purchasing increased by 45% and extra purchases resulted in an additional $300 million during the first year!
Why companies don’t do user testing
The Amazon.com business problem could not have been solved had they disregarded the case for user testing.
Yet many companies continue to cite time and money as two reasons to put user testing on hold—perhaps not blatantly, but out of inability to see its significance.
If I may compare, it is like saying that I don’t have time to eat healthy food and healthy food is expensive (not entirely true if you grow your own greens). So it’s okay to continue to live on junk food which is cheaper but isn’t filling nor nourishing for the long-term. The price you pay at the end is a shorter life or a lifetime of being bedridden. It can be the same for your business. When you do not do user testing, and depend on your assumptions—those are junk food for your business.
“Okay tell me, how long and how much, anyway?”
Glad you asked! Preparing the test plans, executing them and getting the test results—on average take around one week for a website. After that, analysing the results to assess the user-friendliness of the product and making further changes would take some more time.
User testing does take time (not more than a few weeks, depending on the scope of your objectives), but if your business’ aim is to build a loyal customer base, user testing is the key in user-centric product development. Recruiting the right participants from your potential user base can be a painstaking task, but is well worth the investment.
(At this point, you may be tempted to think, “So why not go with my intuition and the opinion of my expert designers? They are the experts after-all, and bypassing the user-testing does save upfront time and money. And as time is money, you are actually saving double the money. Sounds about right, doesn’t it?)
The cost may be the manpower of a user researcher on the team, plus minor incentives given to participants of the usability test. This, when measured against the losses your company can possibly incur, is really no major cost.
User-testing cannot be ignored at any stage of your product. You may be an e-commerce conglomerate or a small business. When you define the objectives of usability testing clearly, you are sure to receive valuable insights on your user behaviours and mental models.
For those with low budget for user testing
User testing is never an unachievable dream. Here are some tips for those who are low on user testing budget:
1. Ask family and friends: You can hire consultants or ask your friends, family and colleagues for their opinion. They can also help you get some volunteers which will help you as you get to know more about your product’s usability by testing it on as many different user groups as possible. Focus on what these users ‘do’ more than what they ‘say’ about your product.
2. Open hallway testing: This is a method of usability testing where people selected randomly are asked to try the product. Except for the project designers and engineers, anyone can be used to test the product in this method.
3. URUT: In Online User Testing (Remote) also known as URUT, the testers are present in their natural environment (home/office, etc) and are thus more likely to give you a less biased feedback on user behaviour. This tremendously saves costs incurred for usability lab, facilitator’s time and travel.
Other ineffective shortcuts to user testing
Manik Rathee (a former UX engineer for Barack Obama’s website in 2012 elections) said , “You are almost always wrong about your users.”
That includes your design team, who are sure that users will love their design. They may have been doing this for years, but that still does not guarantee that they will be right this time. Some of the bad shortcuts to user testing that are commonly practiced include:
- asking top executives or proactive employees to test the product and conclude the design based on their feedback,
- designers taking their designs personally, and choosing interfaces based on aesthetics more than usability,
- any team members choosing or giving feedback on interfaces based on personal preferences rather than user-centeredness.
Do this, and you will end up being merely part of the statistics of billions of websites and apps out there.
Remember that your business is serving real users via your website or app. So why not confirm they will like it through usability testing before launching it?
If you want to build a long-term term business, you would want to move forward with each release, and not keep going back to fix issues with the older ones. You may lose some valuable users in the process of this fixing. It takes five times more efforts and money to bring them back. User testing is a crucial process of building products that truly work for your users.
Ashish has over two decades of spearheading effective integrated campaigns and strategies across traditional and emerging mediums. He has worked in leading advertising agencies for global clients across categories. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org