Whether you’re working on a product or developing a website, it’s important to always keep your audience in mind. Remember that the product or service is not for you, it’s for the customer. While the inner workings of a product may be obvious to you, a creator who has worked so closely with it, your user may struggle in areas that you believe are straightforward.
Take mental models into account. These are beliefs that individual users may have about your product that impact how they interact with it (Neilsen). For example, if an icon looks like a button, most users will expect it to be clickable. It could confuse users if it’s not. There’s likely going to be a significant difference between your mental model and the user’s, so it’s important to bridge this gap. The best way to do this is through usability testing. You can uncover disparities that may affect the user experience.
CareerFoundry breaks down usability testing into these 6 steps (Veal):
- Identify what needs to be tested and why (e.g., a new product, feature, etc.)
- Identify the target audience (or your desired customers).
- Create a list of tasks for the participants to work through.
- Recruit the right participants for the test.
- Involve the right stakeholders.
- Apply what you learn.
While working on a prototype for a nonprofit grant portal, the usability test uncovered some key findings that can be used to improve the portal while it’s still in prototyping. It may be tempting to get a product to what you view as finalized or perfected before you begin testing but having usability tests at the beginning stages before development is critical. Users may find features that you thought were pertinent to be ineffective or unnecessary. They may find that a feature that you thought was intuitive to be cumbersome. Running usability tests as soon as possible can save time and money as you can be sure that you’re building out features that customers will find useful.
Neilsen, Jakob. “Mental Models.” Nielsen Norman Group, https://www.nngroup.com/articles/mental-models/. Accessed 26 July 2022.
Veal, Raven. “How to Conduct User Experience Research Like a Professional.” https://careerfoundry.com/en/blog/ux-design/how-to-conduct-user-experience-research-like-a-professional/. Accessed 26 July 2022.