As software developers, sometimes we think we have all the answers. The truth is that no matter how much money you dump into a product, it will inevitably fall short if it’s not designed with users in mind. The most effective way to improve upon both your software design and functionality is to simply observe people using it. User testing allows teams to uncover how users react and feel about products, allowing them to draft blueprints for future improvements.
It’s important to host frequent usability tests after prototyping, and even after launch, to discover ways to improve upon your product. When you observe users, it’s hard not to think of questions to ask as a result of their actions, such as why are they completing a task in a way or what would make the site easier to navigate?
It’s also important to account for any necessary demographic data (age, education, experience, etc.) relating to the user-type. Having this information can help you identify how different users interact with your product, especially users in your target audience.
When observing users of UtilityModule, an energy management application that tracks the usage and cost relating to energy data, we were able to spot trends amongst users when completing any given task. This allowed us to pull back and redesign any weaknesses in our product using an agile process.
Understanding the motivations of the user is at the forefront of designing for an energy management system. Without an understanding of why clients are using the energy management system, it becomes challenging to understand how they are using it. That is why user testing is so important.
Actively listening to customers about how they complete tasks allows you to discover flaws in your own design. Listening intently allows you to empathize with what they’re experiencing and will elicit additional questions that you can delve into later in the process.
When observing people using software, it’s best to actively listen and carefully observe their behaviors when executing any given task. Be sure to record anything you hear and compare your user’s thoughts and reactions with other usability tests to develop methods that best satisfy all customers. Collecting these observations and finding patterns is the most effective way to begin designing for software.