Marketers - ever been a user testing participant?

by Gemma Maidment on 27 July 2011

As a User Experience Consultancy we have had years and years of practice in researching and observing people to understand their natural behaviour and interactions with a variety of different digital interfaces.  But what is it like to be on the other end of the process, what is it like to be a participant?

Well, yesterday I got to see exactly what it is like to be a participant as I was used in a test run for some user research we were doing for a client. I was taken through the entire participant experience and I have to say I found it fascinating but my first piece of feedback is that it was very tiring. Usually doing 4 tasks on a website would be very easy and I would do them without thinking so I was surprised how tiring it was.

The next interesting thing I noted, albeit maybe not surprising, is that I instantly had an opinion. I found myself saying “I would expect this and that on each page” giving advice and ideas of what could be on the site to make my experience better. Suddenly, I seem to have become a UX consultant and web designer. I wonder if we had real participants who had a similar low level of exposure to User Experience if their feedback during the tests would be more explicit, more opinionated, and perhaps less natural?

The second thing I observed was the amount of skill and practice it must take to be a good UX consultant. It became evident that the key attributes for an observer/researcher is to be supportive, give clear instructions, and remain neutral. This skill was put to the test by having a friend or colleague as a participant but I have to say they did show a real ability to remain very objective and non-opinionated.

This whole experience made me think, maybe I should perform user testing on my work. As a Marketing Manager, maybe I should spend a bit of time testing behaviour and reaction to my marketing strategy, digital and non-digital tactics (social interactions, white papers, even on this blog?) All marketers do market research to determine the right platforms to use and determine target markets, product development and competitive advantage but what about utilising purer user experience and user testing theory on each digital marketing platform? Taking it a step further, what about using UX to ensure great customer experience across all brand and customer interaction points, on and off line?

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