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What cooking can teach us about design: 5 reasons you should start user testing

Graphic designed by Kathryn Hoffart

Graphic designed by Kathryn Hoffart

How often do you test your product or service? Do you test once you have a finished product? or do you test it as you develop it?

If you have ever watched a cooking show, you would have noticed that the chefs are continuously tasting the food while they cook. Whether adding ingredients or finishing off with seasoning, they always whip out a spoon and take a quick a bite or sip of their creation. Their testing taste buds guide them to the best flavours.

What if chefs never tasted their recipes? That would be a huge gamble. Even the most skilled chef would feel uncomfortable presenting a dish that has not been tasted. If they only tried it once when it was finished and found it tasted horrible, they just wasted considerable time creating a bad dish. This is also why when we are cooking at home, we taste our concoction as we go, like most chefs do. Testing just makes intuitive sense.

Yet, somehow this thinking seldom translates into our professional work, especially in healthcare. I have worked with various healthcare teams and it is rare for people to think of user testing. Don’t get me wrong, many projects talk about evaluation, and some of them develop robust measurement frameworks. However, putting in these frameworks at the end of development is the same as not tasting a dish before presenting it to be eaten. It is no surprise that 70% of change projects end up failing.

It is not enough that you want to evaluate; the name of the game is user testing. User testing is not only about getting feedback from real users. The magic is made by developing prototypes -- preliminary versions of your idea or solution that can be tested. The notion of testing your idea early and often is a core process of design thinking.

Cyclical testing is frequently used in the tech sector, where prototyping and testing are embraced so frequently that it is part of their DNA. Once, while speaking to an employee from Shopify, he mentioned that before a new product or features hits the market it has gone through multiple user testing cycles. This fast, iterative cycle is at the heart of user testing. Build. Test. Learn.

If you are not already sold on the benefits of user testing, here are 5 firm reasons to do it:

1. User testing makes you more efficient. Spending months to develop your solution and get feedback at the end only to find out the user didn’t like it is a waste of time, resources and energy. Testing earlier in development helps you avoid spending time and resources on a solution that the user doesn’t like.

2. User testing makes you more customer-centric. The solution you are creating has to meet user needs or solve a user problem. By embedding user testing throughout your development process, your team naturally prioritizes the customer voice as an essential part of success. The end result is solutions that customers both want and love. This increases customer satisfaction and experience, and ultimately improves your bottom line.

3. User testing helps you prioritize. Sometimes teams debate or get stuck over which feature or solution element is better. The best way to resolve that stalemate is to let users decide the features or design elements that matter most. Through effective user testing, the team can find out the specific elements of a solution that users like or don’t like. This way, you resolve conflict and keep your team focused.

4. User testing can help you discover new insights. Gathering user research is a great step but without the validation of cyclical testing the product or service will be designed in a silo. User testing can quickly uncover new insights or aspects that a team may not have considered when they were basing their solution primarily on research.

5. User testing can help with change management. User testing with your staff can help them feel part of the design process. It gives them an opportunity to be heard and you obtain valuable feedback that improves the solution. Consequently, staff are more likely to adopt the solution and take ownership of it. You no longer need to spend time on a “buy-in” strategy.

Now that you know about the great benefits of user testing, nothing should stop you from applying the process like you do in the kitchen. Next time you are on a project or designing a solution, think like a chef and taste your food more often!

#agile #usertesting #prototyping #designthinking #designsprint #innovation #leadership #ux #uidesign #designthinking

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