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Get Better Signal from User Testing

Lab Zero is a development and design agency in San Francisco

We like to talk about trends we're seeing and tricks we're learning so we can make you cool products.

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Delivering value to your customer is your primary goal. You want purpose to motivate your product; you want it to be sustainable and intuitive to use. The way to get it there is by talking to the only people who can assess that value.

Those people are your customers.

Blending Analytical and Anecdotal Discovery Produces Clearer Signal

Your team, your product, and your customers are linked together in a feedback cycle. We call this customer feedback signal. When your team gets a fuzzy or incomplete signal from the customer, you make poor decisions. You waste time building things that your customers do not need. Or you meet the right need, but your design lacks focus.The better the signal, the more clearly you see improvements.

We break up the signal into two components: Analytical and Anecdotal. Market research, surveys, A/B tests, website statistics are broad, quantitative, and analytical. Site feedback and user interviews are the direct voice of the customer; they are qualitative; they are anecdotal.

 

Analytical

 

Anecdotal

Answers “How many?”

 

Answers “Why?”

“Only 3% of users upgrade to premium”

 

“Jim has to restart Photoshop every time he encounters this problem”

Has a low error rate
(isn’t likely to be wrong)

 

Has a high discovery rate
(more likely to lead to an epiphany)

Broad coverage

 

Deep insight

Large sample size

 

High resolution

 

User interviews get to the heart of your user’s needs, joys, frustrations--their entire experience. Academics have a term for what we do in a customer interview: ethnographic research. Which means putting yourself in your customer’s shoes, while taking lots of notes. Market research, analytics, A/B tests and even survey tools don’t give you this information; they don’t give you empathy.

When Anecdotal Signal is Missing

The analytical signal component you’ve been gathering is valuable to us, and we will ask you for even more. At the same time, by enhancing the signal with an anecdotal component, we’ll deliver more value. To see this, suppose you had two project teams working in parallel. One of the teams has access to all components (analytical and anecdotal), while the other team has no access to the anecdotal component.

Area of Impact

Team with Analytical Only

Team with Full Signal

Product Roadmap

You see that users ranked Feature X above Features Y and Z

You understand the driving need behind a customer’s preference, and you meet the need with Feature X

Design

You hope the user will learn to love whatever you build

You fit the features to the goals of real people

Motivation

You drive to a number

You work together to solve a problem for people you know and care about

Phasing

You build the feature that delivers 20% of the value first

You build the feature that delivers 80% of the value first

Costs

You spend $10K on a survey and a whitepaper, and $2MM on everything else

You spend $100K on discovery and testing, and $1.5MM on everything else

Time to Market

You maintain everything at high priority, then launch late with ALL THE FEATURES

You leverage the voice of the customer to prioritize, to cut scope, and to launch early

 

The Benefits Keep Coming

User research tests specific hypotheses. But often we get benefits that surprise us. We hear things like:

By talking to customers about their needs, we discovered sales opportunities we didn't know about. Exercising those opportunities had a material effect on our business.

-- Stakeholder, internal operations

We collected positive feedback for our operations team that  enhanced our relationship with that team. We heard first-hand from customers how much they depend on the real stars of our customer service team. It was an eye-opener.

-- Customer Success, wholesale bank

Once we started talking to customers, it was amazing how much they opened up to us. They told us things about their business that we would never have heard in the course of transacting with them. They were so happy that we asked about their needs that they gave us critical competitive information. We were delighted.

-- GM, information product

We were so close to pulling the trigger on a new feature. Then we discovered the customer already had the tools to do what we were building. We replaced the development project with a single bulk email, won regard from our customers, and saved ourselves time and effort.

-- PMO, peer-to-peer lending company

Our organization has testing sceptics and testing zealots in it. Some don’t want to talk to users at all, while others want to conduct an on-location panel about every pixel. With Lab Zero, we brought the sceptics up to a minimal level of testing, and reined in the zealots to test just the stuff that mattered. We found our balance.

-- UX Manager, consumer electronics giant

How Can We Help You?

The Lab Zero team feeds insights fueled by user testing into all our client work. We know that the right level of research helps our team build the right thing. Can Lab Zero help you establish a user testing program that fits your needs? We welcome your contact.

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