Guilt and Shame / or / The way things were

Perhaps you are like me and get little notes from your friends like this, “Could you read over this paper and tell me what you think?”.  As a student, I asked and answered that question all the time.

As a web builder, I do the same thing with the small sites I create for friends and family.  I send an email to a few choice folks and ask them something like, “Hey, please look over this website I’m building and let know what you think.”

User-testing is a step in the design and construction process.  I’m guilty of treating it like a  small step. A very small step.  It was the equivalent of proofreading. Do all the links work?  Are there any obvious misspellings? I feel there were two reasons for this:

  1. The evaluation phase of the design process is listed at the end.  Because of this we treat it like the end of a linear process and it’s generally rushed.
  2. We – designers, site-owners, and builders – don’t treat the designing and building of sites as an iterative process.  We start and we stop.

But what if you don’t have a small site for a family member or friend?  What if this site is a business and the stakes are much higher?

I have to tell you that I feel a bit ashamed of my PAST  flippant attitude towards testing and revision for business sites (Sorry former Clients!).  But, now that I’ve turned my laser-like focus on user-testing and the evaluation phase of the design process, I’ve changed.

Which brings into sharp relief, the Facebook status update I saw this morning from a fellow web builder:

The most basic website usertest

Now that I’m on the path of web user-testing expertise, I was really shocked by this. I’ll go into why I was shocked briefly – The question, “need opinions” is too general, the testers (his facebook friends) are not serious , and the results won’t improve the page.

However, It was more the shock that I’ve made this a part of my site evaluations in the past, too.

I spoke with Tom later in the day.   He knew he needed actually user-testing.  He said, “I’m 95% sure of the site. It will work.  It’s that 5% of doubt that I’d like to erase with user testing.”

So I asked “What are you looking for in a user test?” He answered simply:

  • actionable suggestions that improve conversions
  • define confusing areas and ambiguities
  • how to make the site as simple as possible, but no simpler
  • how to make the site as easy to use as possible

We talked about options available on the web. Like


None of these seemed to be a perfect match.  Either they were too expensive – $40 a test for a random tester we agreed seems high -, or they seem to give too much data and not enough ”actionable suggestions”.

I hope to follow this thread and work with Tom more in future blog posts.  He is actively looking for User-testing services now. So, if you can recommend or give reviews, please do.  Perhaps he can serve as a case study and enlighten the process for all of us.

(In order to keep myself on task and away from Google,  I wrote the questions I wanted to answer here at the bottom of the page. I would delete them, but I figure they may be interesting to you, my dear reader.)


  1. What’s the difference between Quality assurance and User-testing?
  2. What is the bare minimum you should do for a user-test… or, I should say, site evaluation and revision?
  3. What’s the difference between UI experts and ‘random testers’?
  4. Is there a standard Website evaluation form for general site improvement?  Visual design and layout?  Color Scheme?  Functionality?
  5. Should you test for everything – all facets of a site –  at once?

2 comments on “Guilt and Shame / or / The way things were

  1. Pingback: Testing « Better User Experience

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