The number one piece of advice we can give anyone embarking on a user research project, is for you and your colleagues to watch it live, as it happens.
Reports on their own are not enough
Clients expect to get reports at the end of a usability testing project. While they are a useful way to document insights and recommendations, reports on their own are not the best way to communicate outcomes.
Why? Because much of the knowledge generated during a user research session is tacit – difficult to write a report and codify. What testers do is just as important as what they say and this is often hard to articulate. Even the silences speak volumes about the usability of the interface.
Everyone walks around with a fixed mental model of what reality is. In fact, their reality is just their perception of the world, which is influenced by their experiences, their values and their beliefs.
To make a real difference to this perception, it is crucial that the people who are going to be involved in implementing changes on a website or app actually get to see and hear real users using an interface.
Why you should watch user testing live
Observation of real time research enables greater insight into the user issues for a number of reasons:
- It allows stakeholders to gain experiential knowledge of users’ behaviours as well as hearing their attitudes
- It is impossible to deny there is a problem when you are watching it happen in front of you
- It ensures observers are involved in shaping the research, increasing the chance that they buy in to the results produced at the end
Observation of the research on its own, however, is not enough: everyone develops their own interpretation of why a user behaved in a particular way based on their own experiences, values and prejudices.
Only by getting all the observers to discuss what they have seen is it possible to challenge these mental models to gain agreement about the issues with the site, and the solutions need to fix them.
The immediacy of observing ‘live’ testing helps bring the issues into sharp relief.
The subsequent discussion facilitates the process of collaborative ‘sense-making’, enabling your whole team to take ownership of the research results, develop a collective view of the issues and agree the appropriate actions in the context of organisational environment.