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Usability Is the Last Thing You Should Be Testing

Published 3 months agoΒ β€’Β 2 min read

Usability Is the Last Thing You Should Be Testing

by Jeff Humble


Dear Reader,

Here's a common scenario you might find yourself in:

Somebody in leadership has been pushing for an idea for a long time, and your team finally gets a chance to tackle it. You want to do this by the books, so you design three versions and run a usability test with five users.

You catch some problems early and start feeling pretty confident in your approach. The executives love the design, so everyone is happy.

The idea is finally built, but customers completely ignore it.

It never gains traction, but nobody knows why. Eventually, the leader realizes the idea is a dud and blames the team's execution for the result.

πŸ€¦πŸ½β€β™€οΈ What happened here?

You skipped the desirability test.

Usability should have been the last thing you tested.

4 Checks to "Validation"

Rather than validating an idea, you want to put an idea through 4 different validation checks. Here are they are in the most common order:

  1. Viability, a.k.a. "Should we build this?" - Generally not a design area, validated by business stakeholders
  2. Feasibility, a.k.a. "Can we build this?" - Generally not a design area, validated by tech stakeholders
  3. Desirability, a.k.a. "Will people want this?" - Potential for design, validated by users
  4. Usability, a.k.a. "Will people understand this?" - Owned by design, validated by users

Generally, you will go in that order, meaning usability is the final check and not as crucial as desirability. That might come as a shock to you if you're not aware of the whole process.

Desirability and usability are challenging because they are risks related to people, and people change. What was desirable five years ago may not necessarily be desirable today.

That's why testing is a full-time job. There are always risks related to desirability and usability. Very few designers can test for both.

Testing for desirability is a blind spot for many teams, and it's a good growth role for a senior designer.

Learn more in our four-week course on designing product experiments...only 2 essential seats left!

What methods do you have for testing desirability?

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β€œwErE a FaMiLy HeRe. BrInG yOuR wHoLe SeLf To WoRk.” πŸ€¦πŸΌβ€β™‚οΈ -@tomfall

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Until next week, y'all! ✌️

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Jeff Humble
​Designer & Co-Founder
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The Fountain Institute

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The Fountain Institute

The Fountain Institute is an independent online school that teaches advanced UX & product skills.

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