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On Testing: Make Sure Your Tests Fit the Environment

Yesterday, I received an email from a design firm. On occasion the firm sending the email hires me to consult on their web projects. In this particular instance they were looking to send some web designs, in print format, to a perspective client.  Their proposed idea gave me a quick flash back to a serious issue that arose a few years earlier during a final web site review meeting.

Reviewing a Web Site Design on Paper
A few years ago I was sitting in on a meeting held between another design firm and their client to update the progress of the client's nearly completed web site. Until that meeting the design firm responsible for web development had been submitting their web page designs for approval on paper. During our meeting the client held up their printed version to compare and contrast the version on their computer screen. The client's first response was "It looks different, I like what I see on paper better." There were a number of small discrepancies between the web version and the print version. The end result cost the development company thousands of dollars in design changes. Big lesson to be learned: review web sites on a computer browser not on printed sheets of paper.

The Looking Glass
When conducting any sort of web site testing for clients, ensure that the testing takes place on the user's own computers.  Think of your home or work office computer as your personal "looking glass" into the world wide web.  Everyone has a different looking glass (computer and monitor setup). Taking a user away from their normal perspective can create a number of issues especially when it comes to usability testing. The was the issue with the meeting example above.  The client was accustomed to seeing the web designs being presented on paper.  When the client was finally presented with the web version of their web site their perspective changed enough to become an issue of concern.

Keeping It Native
When you are developing or testing a web site, keep the testing within its' native environment.  The above example illustrates just one of the factors associated with attempting to show web work on paper. There are any number of variables that could be different from a printed hard copy to the actual computer screen.  Make sure you are testing your web projects in a web browser and test print pieces on paper.

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