Why do you need independent user testing?

Why do you need independent user testing for information resources?

The one thing that users can tell you that no one else can is what they will do with the resource you have created. Here are some examples:

  • People stop reading if they are confused. This means that they simply miss half or more of the information you want to give them
  • People stop reading if they are unhappy with the tone of a letter. Not only do they miss the information you want to convey, but they may also know dislike your brand.
  • People stop filling in a form if they don't understand the question.
  • Possibly worse, people guess the answers to questions on forms - or some times make them up - if they don't know how to answer it accurately - and you cannot tell that is what they have done.
  • They just ignore whole sections. It's often discovering the things that readers ignore that comes as most of a shock to our clients.  

Why independent testing?

Interviewing someone about their level of understanding is a very different thing from conducting a standard user interview.

Some organisations do their own testing. Some testing is better than none. However, the benefits of using an independent researcher for information resources are:

  • It's obvious - independence. People who test their own material sometimes hear what they want to hear. Independent researchers hear everything.
  • The second reason is interviewing skill. Interviewing someone about their level of understanding is a very different thing from conducting a standard user interview. Interviewing someone who is confused and potentially embarrassed about being confused requires professional interviewing skills.  We are research experts who have studied conversation science, so we know what users mean when they 'think aloud'.
  • Standards. We are members of the Research Society. We abide by a Code of Professional Behaviour that mandates privacy protection for example.

Our skill with language

While factors such as site or page design and layout play a key role in user experience, at Susan Bell Research our focus is on language, such as

  • The words that users don't understand or have to guess the meaning
  • How readers read, and where they engage, what they skip over, where they stop, and why.  Much of our work has been on resources that regulators and others want users to read and understand. 

When presenting our findings we use our linguistic expertise to explain to how the information can expressed more clearly, so that more people understand, use or comply with it.

 


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