Usability testing is more important than customer feedback!

Mobile wireframes

The customer expects you to deliver an app that magically works with all of their users. Here’s how you can achieve it:

Usability Testing 1What most app development agencies miss is that the people who will eventually be using the app (the users) will be different from the ones who are paying for it (the customer). When finding a balance between resources available and quality of the final app, we tend to start building an app based on how customers want it. This widens the gap between the final app and how users are expecting it to be.

Usability testing  is to understand what the end-users expect from the solution you are building. Usability testing or user research may sound like rocket science but it’s rather simple. It need not be expensive or time-consuming and doesn’t need a complicated set-up. And yes, your actionable insights can be used in iterating your app.

Many a time, usability testing can be as simple as a phone call, Skype or Hangouts discussion. Sometimes it requires gathering people in a room and asking them to perform a task. If you have your wireframes/mockups in place you can create prototypes, share the prototypes and observe users by giving them small tasks to complete on the prototype.

On the other hand, customer feedback is more like sharing your app or designs with customers  – “How do you like it?”. Rather than it providing any insights for improvement, it reinforces customer bias in the development.

Let’s look at other factors on why you should rely on usability testing more than customer feedback for successful delivery and long-term customer relation.

Customer feedback is always changing

Your customers may be ranging from corporates to a guy with an idea but they all have one thing in common – they have “some” suggestions for apps they want to buid. These suggestions are established either by their own experience of the problem they are solving or by observing the users they are building the app for.

These observations mostly happen on-the-go and in a highly unstructured way. When the customer makes a suggestion he tries to add as much as he can which creates ambiguity and disorder of priority. Not to mention customer’s ever changing personal bias and preferences about the product. This causes multiple iterations during product development.

“Customer feedback is always changing, user behavior is relatively stable.”

Usability testing completely solves this problem. A “lean” usability testing with small a user set will help you a long way to freeze features and design patterns & user interface. Since this feedback has come from users directly, customers won’t be able to wave them off easily. You’re most likely to close the development in lesser iterations.

Quick and cost-effective usability testing can be your differentiator

With the advent of high-speed app development technology and frameworks, cost of app development has significantly gone down. Everyone is promising to deliver the same app at competitive prices. In the edge of the competition, “Lean” usability testing can be your unique differentiator in the process of creating awesome experiences.

Whenever I ask design agencies if they do usability testing, the most common answer is “if  the customer asks us to do usability testing”. No!! You don’t have to wait for approval to add value, and usability testing need not be expensive and time-taking. Here’s how it should be instead:

Usability Testing 2What if you could share the prototype/early version of the app with a small set of real-users and show the customers how their users are performing to the designs. Security and compliance issues can be handled by asking customers to suggest a close group of users. This will delight your customers that you have not only designed a solution or interface for them but also, you have gone the extra mile to get the solution validated. Again, a few hours of effort will deliver much more than what was expected. Going this extra mile will become your differentiator.

Make customers more confident

When a customer reached out to you, he was expecting a solution to a real-world problem that he came across. Based on his encounters with the problem he has offered some suggestions. Research has shown that about 35% of design options suggested by customers are close to what users have been looking for. He is expecting you to contribute for remaining 65%.

Design agencies make assumptions based on their experiences with such solution. But like we established earlier, suggestions from the end customers should be seriously considered, as they’re the ones who’ll eventually use the app.

You don’t have to go for a flashy usability testing lab setup with cameras and multiple devices. If you are in the design phase, create a quick prototype, upload your mockups and share the prototype link with your users. Using modern prototyping tools, you can record user behaviour as a video and analyze them for improvements. I highly recommend CanvasFlip for integrated prototyping and usability testing solutions for it’s ability to consolidate user behaviour as interaction heatmap and conversion funnel.

Helps you in subsequent projects

Once you have done usability testing in one of your projects, it becomes an asset of yours, and improves your knowledge base. You can use these references when you are making a proposal. Rather than showing the final output of past projects, you can also show iterations and usability testing results at each iteration. This will help your customers visualize your design process.

Since usability testing is still catching up among design agencies, you may get an early adopter advantage and give a fresh and innovative approach to your customers.

Iterations while building the app costs lesser than fixing the live app

Customers will always ask for iterations. Making and validating these changes at design level is much more efficient than iterating when the app is live.

You can create design prototypes at different stages – pen & paper sketches, Balsamiq wireframes, sketch mockups and final user interfaces.

You should iterate right from the very first time you are doing paper/pen wireframing, take a snap of hand-drawn sketches and put them in a design collaboration software. You can also create a CanvasFlip prototype to show the entire flow and take feedback to iterate at designs. You can replace the mockups or wireframes on-the-go to maintain and track the progress of the project.

This way once you have iterated at design level you don’t have to make iterations on the app which is live, saving you significant effort and cost in overall delivery.

“Lean” usability testing is faster than customer feedback

In some of the cases where multiple stakeholders are involved in an app development, it’s difficult to capture and consolidate feedback from entire customer group. What makes it even worse is when there are different opinions about a design pattern, feature or an interface.

CanvasFlip, started by Vipul Mishra, is a UX prototyping tool that helps you easily come up with UI/UX prototypes, and helps you make iterations to see which ones would work best.

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