User testing can be an emotional experience

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Anyone who’s spent any time working in digital will tell you the benefit of regular testing of your offering with real people.

They hopefully validate a number of theories, as well as piercing huge holes through long-held assumptions and occasionally throwing you curveballs you would never have foreseen under any circumstances.

But – for me – the most enduring part of user testing is to hear the personal stories of people who already do or are likely to use your product/site.

Working for a charity, you sometimes test with those who fit completely with your target user, but who may never have heard of you.

It’s at that point – occasionally – when your job seems completely worthwhile.

User testing in reality
Last week we carried out just that sort of user testing at Age UK.

Ostensibly it was to validate some previously-held theories. The reality was quite different.

There we sat – behind a one-way mirror – listening to people describe their lives in a nutshell.

Most were doing OK, but the odd couple of participants were in great need or a frankly desperate situation.

The realisation – after doing a bit of browsing – that we (Age UK) were out there and offered far more than they previously knew or even imagined was a joy to behold.

We hadn’t solved their life’s problems in 30 minutes, but we had given them some hope.

The hope that they’re not on their own and that someone else is out there who can help.

No matter that this was part of digital user testing. For any charity – and those of us who work for them – that is what keeps you going.

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