The Case Against UX Testing


Dark office picture, pull blinds. Picture of a UX designer wearing a cigar. Look at the filtered light through the fog-beaten smoke by a spinning ceiling fan. See how the UX designer sits at a desk and reflects on the Web site.

The UX designer has devised a series of tests to determine if a green button is better than a red button. One of them involves putting a turtle on its back. He looks carefully at the Web site and says, “Describe in individual words, only the good things that come to your mother’s mind.”

The Web site stops sweating under pressure, then replies, “Let me tell you about my mother…”

BLAM! The website draws an unprecedented gun trigger, and the designer drops UX, making the project rebuilt from scratch in Material by Harrison Ford, and Post – its overuse delegated to Edward James Olmos.

Who Really Takes UX Testing?

In the bleak dystopian future of the past (Blade Runner 1982 was set in 2019) no one took advantage of asking the wrong questions. And little has changed.

There are so many complications involved in designing any test to verify UX and administer the test. Issues are skewed by bias, conscious or otherwise, and competing agendas. Even with something seemingly as simple as a split test, distortions are very likely.

When planned by a designer, a client benefits little from UX testing; the advantage is for the designer, who can then say that their ideas are validated (or not).

Imagine hiring a developer to code a website, only to find out that the developer did not know the SEC and expected to be paid to learn it before finishing the work. You would hire someone else because that developer is not qualified.

From the client’s point of view, a UX designer should know, through experience, whether a green button is better than a red button. Designing an elaborate test for a split test of button color serves little purpose other than to protect the designer against mistakes.

The ROI of UX Test

Substantial ROI (Return on Investment) from UX testing is widely accepted. We’ve all heard apocryphal stories about sites that split-tested their Checks and improved retention by 5%.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say, without user testing, that site could keep a 4.9% improvement out simply by hiring a competent and experienced designer. But what about the remaining 0.1%? Well, for most sites, 0.1% is a very small profit. And the cost of retrieving it through testing far outweighs the benefits.

When a company like Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, or Google tests a website, it can afford to allocate $ 25ka for user testing because it will reach 0.1%, which is much more than $ 25k. To achieve the same 0.1% improvement, a small business needs to design and run the same tests, incurring the same costs. But for a small business, $ 25ka could consume all profits.

UX testing almost always works. But it is only profitable on a scale.

If a good UX – based UI designer can improve check – out retention by 4.9%, tripling the project budget for just 0.1% is a tough sell. In the long run, that $ 25k is best spent on advertising.

What UX Designers Can Learn from Psychiatry

We all tend to think we are unique. It is a trait of survival attributed to our prehistoric brain. That belief in uniqueness is particularly strong among highly competitive people. We all think our site, our side-project, is our original approach. And we are all wrong.

When a psychiatrist sits down with a patient, they have two immediate goals: to categorize that patient into an established diagnosis, and to assess the severity of the condition. The patient may be depressed or anxious or even suffer from a potentially more debilitating condition like schizophrenia. What the psychiatrist does not want to do is define a new illness.

Occasionally – perhaps once a decade – a truly unusual patient appears, and a new type of illness is observed. New treatments are discovered and tested. These treatments are rarely developed on behalf of individual patients; Doctors work with grants from governments, medical schools, or the pharmaceutical industry and publish their results.

The vast majority of websites face similar problems. They deal with similar demographics, operate within a similar culture, and deal with similar technology. So they can be categorized in the same way that a psychiatrist categorizes patients.

Testing UX in individual cases is not the key to delivering successful UX solutions, but researching UX, examining similar projects, and cribbing its solutions. If you categorize a project accurately, you will find a readily available solution.

Substitute UX Best Practices for User Testing

Your client does not have to pay for a UX test to take advantage of it. Enterprise sites, government sites, and even personal projects will test UX patterns. Sites like Shopify or Stripe will test their checkout processes by users at scale and enable companies to take advantage of the results by taking over their platforms.

If you are currently testing designs for small businesses, one of two things is true: you are wasting your clients’ money investigating a problem solved by someone else, or you are designing something so original that there is no precedent by him (and probably should not be).

Designers should be given opinions. Designers should know UX best practices and how they relate to a range of scenarios. Designers should be able to make a skilled guess. Designers should be self-validating.

Once or twice in your career, you may have a legitimate need to test something. However, most of the time, the correct answer is to push the turtle back to its feet and select whichever color button has the highest contrast.

Image directed: Still of Brion James in Blade Runner. Copyright Warner Bros. Entertainment



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