A lesson Learned… damage done wasn’t so bad

I had a class in which we (the class) were assigned into groups to develop a low fidelity prototype for a shared travel app. On my team I had two software developers. My team experience was pretty limited at that time and previous teams I had worked with as an undergrad had little to do with development. I was stoked TWO DEVELOPERS!!! WE GOT THIS!!!

There was nothing we couldn’t build as a team. We brainstormed; this feature, that interactions. It was going to be great. We built the wireframe up to a prototype and finally got our first user to test it. This was going to be awesome…. Or so I thought

(Some Background) One of my majors in undergraduate was sociology. I learned to conduct interviews and observations. Interviews with a prototype are a little different than what I learned in sociology. One problem was that every time I asked the user to perform a task I was spelling it out for them; add a description, now save it. I wasn’t letting the user explore or figure it out themselves. But that actually didn’t help the user none, and I learned first hand the biggest difference between detached research and testing something you build… Owww, my bruised ego!

“Oh god, that is awful!” said the user of our cherished feature. “Ewww” she said when one of the three of us looking over her shoulder explained that your destination information was prepopulated from your previous trip.

The design was fifty shades of bad.

We had been so excited before the test. As the smart graduate students we were, we had all the greatest ideas known to man. But once those ideas where out of our heads and into the world we were faced with the fact that what looked great in our meeting, after we’ve explained it to each other and bought our own rationalizations, didn’t fly with the user. Especially since you don’t get to sell them on it before they start using it.

I see this happening more and more. What sounded like a great idea turns out to be disconnected and lofty in terms of where it stands for the user. Testing doesn’t just find the flaws in our product, it breaks down what we think we know. We think we know what the users want, and testing shows us that the user will do anything and everything that we never wanted them to do. More importantly, we think we know what we’re doing. Testing shows us the things that we looked over, the things we weren’t prepared to see, and it shows us the things we have yet to learn.

Sorry if this came off a bit motivational speaker 🙂