After my previous post, involving the microwave interface, I asked a few people in my family how they enter one minute on a microwave. I was surprised that none of them had ever thought to enter 6 – 0 for sixty seconds to get one minute. In fact, they questioned “Would that even work?”
When I say I was surprised, I mean really surprised! They didn’t know if it would work? What did they think would happen? Their response: “It would just do nothing.” Well, I would hope not. Knowing these people, if this machine “just did nothing” when it doesn’t like the input, we’d all be hearing about it. I’m sure they would want some kind of error message (but since microwaves have never given an error message, they aren’t expecting to see one).
This for me was a real life lesson of why user testing is vital. If you’ve never done user testing you will be amazed the first time you see someone not finding the button right there in front of their face, or not understanding that a menu expands, or unfamiliar with copy/paste. All of these may be easy for you because you are a part of the world where these things are common. But we have to remember that to some people, these common items or behaviors are akin to driving on the “wrong” side of the road in a foreign country.
Find some real people and watch them use your site. Resist the urge to explain something when they don’t figure it out right away. Make note of these moments and consider changing it. If something isn’t intuitive, it’s likely frustrating, and we don’t want frustrated users.
There are some rather sophisticated methods – some involving the tracking of eye movement – and basic methods such as just sitting next to someone. This isn’t a how-to but a friendly reminder.
Maybe you need some simple instructions on your page. Maybe some elements need to be moved around. Maybe you think it’s perfect – but you’re probably wrong. Go find out for sure.