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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Riccetto

User Testing in Product Development

Updated: Apr 23

In product development there exists a vital practice that often goes neglected by big companies and new entrepreneurs alike, and yet this practice holds the power to make or break a product: user testing.


Picture this: you and your team have spent months crafting what you believe is the perfect product—sleek design, cutting-edge features, and flawless functionality. But, without the crucial step of putting your creation to the test with real users, you're essentially navigating in the dark, hoping for the best but risking the worst.

 

At Brash Inc., we live and breathe product design and we've been part of the development story for a wide array of products from every kind of industry, and through it all, the following lesson always remains true: user testing isn't just important; it's absolutely essential. Let's delve deeper into why.

 

 

The Reality Check

 

User testing, simply put, is the process of gathering feedback and insights from real users to evaluate and refine a product. It's more than just a checkbox on the development roadmap; it's the compass guiding every decision, from design iterations to feature prioritization.

 

User testing often ends up serving as a reality check.

 

Even with a heavy amount of research going into your user — and even with you and your team being people, too, that try out the product— we make biased assumptions what our users want or how they'll interact with our product. And these assumptions are often very wrong.

 

User testing thrusts your product into the hands of real people with real needs, desires, and frustrations. And trust us, they won't hesitate to point out what works and, more importantly, what doesn't. They don’t have the same intimate knowledge of the product, its intention, or life experience that you do, they are going to interact with it in ways that never even crossed your mind as a possibility. See the image below.

 



User testing allows us to put those assumptions to the test, validating—or debunking—our hypotheses based on real-world feedback. It's the reality check that prevents us from building products based on guesswork and gut feelings, ensuring that every decision is grounded in empirical evidence.

 

 




Iterate & Improve

 

No matter how ground-breaking your product may be, if users can't figure out how to use it, it might as well be a glorified paperweight. By observing real users navigating your product, you gain invaluable insights into its strengths and weaknesses. Clunky navigation? Confusing interface? But user testing isn’t just about finding flaws, it’s also opportunity for innovation you may not have seen before. Imagine watching users interact with your product in ways you never imagined—uncovering hidden use cases, suggesting novel features. 

 

User testing is not a one-and-done affair; it's an ongoing process that drives iterative improvement. By continuously gathering feedback and iterating based on user insights, product teams can refine their offerings over time, delivering a better experience with each iteration.

 

Example: When Slack was initially developed in 2013, it was intended to be a messaging platform for internal team communication, replacing the cluttered and inefficient email threads. However, during user testing, the Slack team discovered that users were using the platform in ways beyond simple messaging. Instead of just communicating with their immediate team members, users were creating channels for specific projects, departments, and even hobbies. They were sharing files, integrating third-party apps, and collaborating on documents—all within the Slack ecosystem. Recognizing the potential for Slack to become more than just a messaging tool, the company embraced this unexpected usage and expanded its features to better support collaboration, knowledge sharing, and workflow automation. Today, Slack is not just a messaging app; it's a central hub for team communication and productivity, thanks in part to the insights gained from user testing.

 

 

Minimize Risk

 

User testing unveils these usability hurdles before they morph into full-blown catastrophes and will often save you money in the long run. By identifying and addressing issues early on, you avoid the nightmare scenario of launching a product, and then learning there’s a safety hazard, or people just don’t “get it” and you need to recall the product, or the excitement of the launch is dwindled by user confusion. User testing helps mitigate that risk by identifying issues early in the development process, allowing teams to course-correct before it's too late and you’ve mass produced a giant health hazard no one will buy. It's a proactive approach to product development that saves time, resources, and headaches down the line.

 

Product Image of the Kiln courtesy of ComputerWorld.com

Example - In 2010, Microsoft introduced the Kin, a line of smartphones targeted at young social media users. The Kin devices featured integrated social networking features and a focus on sharing photos, videos, and updates with friends. Despite heavy marketing and promotion, the Kin failed to gain traction and was discontinued within weeks of its release. Microsoft's misstep with the Kin can be attributed in part to the company's failure to conduct thorough user testing (and listen to user feedback) before bringing the product to market.

 





User testing isn't just a box to check or a formality to endure—it's a fundamental principle that underpins successful product development. It challenges your assumptions, enhances usability, fuels innovation, saves you money, and minimizes risk.

 

Embrace the process, embrace the feedback, and above all, embrace the opportunity to create something truly remarkable. A great partner who has been through the process goes a long way to help navigate the development landscape, and you can always reach out to our team at letsgo@brashinc.com at any point in your product development journey.


It's not just a product, it's our passion.

Be Brash.

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