User testing for dummies

As human beings, we’ve managed to make our lives a whole lot less complicated throughout time. One of the ways we are able to do this is, is by gathering data and analyzing this data. If we look at it in business terms, there are several ways to gather data. For example through analytics (quantitative research), customer service feedback or user testing. Although these types of data give insight into what direction you or your business should go, it cannot exactly tell you what to do, what to prioritize or what to focus on.

As many UX experts or UX-related marketing experts might confirm, user testing is the right thing to do. Right? Asking your customer what they think of your flow, how they experience it, letting them explain what they are doing and why…It should give you knowledge about what their needs are and how your customer journey should look like. But does it really? 

Let’s be honest 

We, humans, make decisions based on our gut feelings and on our emotions. Not necessarily because something is the smartest or best thing to do. We simply can’t help it, emotions are in the lead. Research has shown that people often say one thing and think or do a completely different thing (Couson & Vayssettes, 2013). Our brain was programmed this way. We are emotional creatures, not able to really make rational decisions since there’s always an emotional component to it. Many different studies have shown this (Lindstrom, 2010; Hazeldine, 2014; Zajonc, 1980; Zajonc & Markus, 1982; Serban et al, 2012). 

Research also shows that not ‘consciously’ focussing on products might be an indicator for purchase intention (Tusche, A., Bode, S., & Haynes, J. D. (2010). So, still think that asking your customer on a conscious, explicit level what (s)he thinks of your product is the smartest thing to do? (Don’t even get me started on offline feedback buttons with emoticons…).

Therefore, knowing how we subconsciously, implicitly experience these products and what we can do to make the experience more positive is essential for getting to know more about these purchase intentions. 

So, therefore I’m intrigued by the next question: why do professionals still look at the business on a conscious level only? Why do they think that they can ask people what they think of something, when we know for a fact that their natural brain process is that they are only able to consciously rationalize their decisions and opinions after these have been made on a subconscious level? 

“Don’t speak, I know just what you’re saying”

I’m not saying that regular user testing or getting customer feedback doesn’t provide insights at all, but I am saying that this way of testing isn’t the best available option out there. Especially when this is a focus point for your organization. The regular user testing way doesn’t provide the insights that can really pinpoint the problem to the detail in your customer experience. Neither can they show the issues that people encounter subconsciously when they are going through your web experience. Next to that, it can’t show the build-up of frustration that might occur throughout your web flow. Frustration can be initiated on a product detail page, but only lead to dropouts once visitors enter your checkout. Then that touchpoint isn’t the place where the real problem exists, but it might be the place where you would start optimizing. This of course if you don’t have the right insights. Critics might ask ‘wouldn’t optimizing here lead to an uplift’? It could, but it wouldn’t address the real problem that’s present on your product detail page. Therefore, you might fix a little thing, but in the end it will cost you either way. So far for your optimizations efforts and costs…Just saying. 

Personally, I believe that the combination of conscious and subconscious insights are the most relevant and valuable when it comes to optimizing your customer journey. Once we show people where they become subconsciously frustrated (that is frustration that your brain is experiencing while you on a conscious level aren’t really bothered yet), we can let them give feedback on these points. This way we gather neurofeedback: we enrich neuro insights with people’s feedback. 

Interested in what your users think of your new app, web flow or service page? Instead of asking them, let them experience it on a subconscious level. You will make your optimizations more relevant and valuable. 

User testing for the smart

So, need the backbone to support your idea to management and don’t really care for real insights and optimizations? Use the ‘old’ way of user testing and gathering customer feedback. For all others out there who really care about making the experience of their customer better and want to make smart optimizations, there’s a new kid in town. It’s called neuro usability testing. 

Trust me, it’s going to be great :).

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