8 things I've learned from 8 years of user testing

by Jack Josephy on 6 April 2017

Jack Josephy, Webcredible


Having personally conducted 100s of user testing sessions, I've seen the value of observing users interact with products time and time again. These insights are relevant to so many areas of an organisation - from optimising digital design features and user journeys to influencing multi-channel delivery and shaping strategic direction.

Every test highlights something different or provides food for thought and nothing you test will get through without surfacing some issue or nugget of inspiration (no matter how robust or effective you think your product is!). That's why we always do user testing at Webcredible, and we always will.

Here are a few of the more common patterns I've recognised over the years.

  1. Users hate jargon and organisational terminology
    They do not understand the terms you use in your industry and respond very negatively to things that aren't written in plain English.
  2. Users care very little about your interface
    They just want to get a job done! Users are not geeks and don't care about how cool looking your website or product is. They want to use it to achieve specific goals and tasks. I've seen ugly interfaces perform well and satisfy users just as well as beautiful ones.
  3. Users do not read every line of copy you write
    Don't expect users to read every line of copy. Less is more as users will typically skim major headlines. Unless they are very involved in the task they will not read long paragraphs of text.
  4. Users don't look at hero images or other decorative elements
    Unfortunately whilst it gives a nice feeling to the page, on the whole users just don't notice this kind of thing. They are more focused on the task at hand and if branded elements or images don't support the completion of the task, they are blind to it.
  5. Users have common mental models and don't like change
    Breaking a common way of doing things, unless you have truly revolutionised things and made something easier, normally just confuses users. Their brains are trained from 1000s of hours of internet use to see and interact with things in a certain way. Be careful when you break convention.
  6. Users are very wary and distrusting of signs of trickery
    Using overly salesy marketing messaging just annoys users. Generally, users are pretty wise to your copy editors attempt to overly persuade them. So, tread the line carefully.
  7. Your proposition is as important as the usability
    Usability is super important. But if your proposition is confusing or unappealing users won't bother engaging at all. Show the value of user testing to the wider business by inviting them to your sessions.
  8. Users suffer from banner blindness and black holes on screen
    Be careful of designing real content to look like adverts. Rounded objects are often ignored. if it's important make it look like normal content. Also be aware of areas of the screen users will miss often on the right. Users scan in an F-shaped pattern.

So there you go, a few things to bear in mind next time you design. If you are interested in learning more about user testing why not come on our usability testing course and learn to do it yourself.

Insights from usability testing will help improve any product. However, these insights have a much wider impact - on innovation, new product development or business strategy. They are relevant to multiple departments across any organisation.

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