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« Web Usability - ALERT! Dominant Users and Focus Groups | Main | Testing Web Usability and Not Leading Your Questions »

Why Test A Company Web Site Outside The Office?

Have you ever tried to get a consensus on something amongst various departments in a company or small business?  A number of companies that create their own web sites utilize internal usability testing for reviewing their site.  They pool their testing users directly from the company.  The information collected can become a liability to the company.

Different Viewpoints
In Steve Krug’s, Don’t Make Me Think, he illustrates the various viewpoints different departments can have on a web site.  Many graphic designers skew their desires toward visual design.  Web programmers can be very application driven.  Then bring in management and you have yet another viewpoint.  Pretty soon you have a multitude of ideas fighting for attention.  The web site gets pulled in every possible direction with each new opinion.  In many cases, the end result is that the user gets left out.

Why test with users outside your organization?

Web usability testing should be highly objective. You need to start with identifying users that fall inside a web site’s demographics.  If you are looking for participants to conduct a usability test look outside of your organization.  Users outside of your organization are less likely to have organizational bias.  Look towards people who aren’t in the Internet at the professional level.  It is very easy for one web developer to find faults in another web developer’s work.

Leverage the Testing Data
The data collected by testing with users outside of the organization is great for leveraging inside an organization.  If there is an internal company dispute over something on the web site outside user testing might help in identifying a solution. The data and presentation is based on user opinion. Users are the people who are going to be using a web site on a daily basis.

In several years of usability testing the feedback from outside user testing has been extraordinary. It has prevented more than a few embarrassing moments.  This includes small things like grammar and spelling mistakes.  It’s the small things that can prove to be embarrassing online. Use testing to make sure you're putting your best foot forward.

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