Dilbert’s Thoughts on User Testing

Dilbert, the namesake of the infamous comic by Scott Adams, is always good for a daily chuckle, but yesterday’s strip instantly reminded me of an import maxim in web design. Say it with me now…

You are not your user!

Here’s the strip:

A Dilbert Comic Strip

Get it!? As with everything Scott Adams writes, it’s a little over the top, but there’s no mistaking his point.

It’s easy to get your colleagues to comment on your new website design or feature, ((In fact, it’s often hard to get them not to comment.)) and you should; they’ll have valuable things to say. But if you stay inside your organization, you will overlook usability and content problems every time. It could be a confusing menu item label or a huge red button that nobody but you notices. The alternative is that you launch and wait for complaints (or, hopefully, pleasant FYIs) to land in your inbox. Worse yet, most confused or frustrated website visitors stay silent.

Because you have intimate knowledge of your organization, service, or product, you and others with that knowledge have an inherently biased viewpoint. The only way around that is to get people from outside of your organization to help. Getting a representative sample of your audience is ideal, but friends and family can still provide lots of useful feedback that you are incapable of giving. There are also great usability tools out there like FiveSecondTest.

So the next time you have a website change you’re contemplating, get outside your organization for a few opinions. You’re guaranteed to learn something, and your site will be better for it. ((Those weird dreams where you’re the pointy-haired boss will immediately cease too.))

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