Getting to Yes: Convincing stakeholders to invest in user testing

In the first part of this series, we touched upon a few reasons why clients might refuse to conduct user testing during a design project.

The truth is user testing does require investment. It takes time and commitment to research, plan and run testing sessions, and analyze and synthesize testing results.

Still, those who understand the importance of UX know that design-centric companies have a higher ROI so including user testing in a design project comes as a no-brainer. On the contrary, unfamiliarity with its potential benefits means that many product owners don’t consider testing in the first place.

The fundamental idea is that user testing is too important to overlook. It surfaces undetected usability issues, informs the design process, and helps fulfill a product’s potential, among others.

According to the dmi:Design Value Index, companies that meet specific design criteria outperform other S&P companies significantly.

Design-driven companies outperform the S&P 500 by 219%.

So how can you convince an executive, your client or your product manager to invest in user testing?

Start by acknowledging that the same motivation for building a great product drives the both of you. We know getting buy-in for user testing is, at times, challenging, so we prepared some ideas to help you back up your case below. While all situations are different, these can serve as a starting point for when you make a case for user testing with a client, executive, or manager.

User testing provides an objective framework for settling debates

In Getting to Yes, a well-known book on negotiation, Roger Fisher and William Ury propose a four-step framework for reaching an agreement. One of their techniques is to insist on using objective criteria:

"People using objective criteria tend to use time more efficiently talking about possible standards and solutions, rather than defending their position and attacking the other side’s position."

User testing offers an objective framework through which to make product and design decisions.

Instead of arguing over the necessity of a feature or the position of a button, a testing mindset shifts the focus to what is essential to users. In this way, value is created when user feedback guides the design and product development process.

With this technique, opinions can be put to the test and measured against objective data captured from user testing.

Learn more about the key values of user testing, according to design leaders across the industry.

Testing is a team effort... and reward

User testing doesn’t just benefit the UX designer — far from it. By investing in user testing early, product makers will find issues that can be fixed with little to no cost, thus actually avoiding back-and-forths between design and development.

More than that, user testing offers a window of opportunity for the entire product team. April Wensel, founder at Compassionate Coding writes:

User tests help the team reach common ground by reminding everyone that the ultimate goal is improving the experience for the user.

April Wensel, founder at Compassionate Coding

When suggesting user testing to a client, refer to the potential advantages for everyone on the team:

  • designers get usability and iteration insights
  • marketers uncover selling propositions
  • developers spend less time rebuilding features and
  • business owners validate — or invalidate — product ideas.

It’s a chance to come together and learn more about the industry, your customers, and, indeed, about the product itself.

Customers help uncover unknown issues

Conducting user testing isn't a sign of weakness or an indication of a project’s failure. It’s a step towards making a product that works well and provides value for its intended users.

In the process of building a product or launching a new feature, many issues can slip under the radar and remain undetected until the finished product officially launches.

Usability tests with customers are a great measure against this. Help Scout, a customer service software relies on usability tests before the launch of new features:

At Help Scout, we regularly turn to usability testing to get the design details for a specific process or feature just right. It may be 90% finished, but well-run tests guarantee that we get the final (most important) 10% right.

Help Scout

Investing in user testing is investing in design

As a designer, you may already be familiar with user testing and its role in the design process, but it's worth making sure all stakeholders are on the same page.

That's because most of the time, user testing is thought of in disconnecting terms from the design process. Whereas in fact, user testing is part of the framework for designing any user experience.

Implementing a design without conducting user testing is like deploying code without first making sure it works. Shedding light on it this way places user testing on the same level as software testing and grants it a well-deserved place in the product development process.

Aligning user testing goals with business goals

In the end, getting executive buy-in comes down to an organization-wide belief that conducting user testing will end up benefiting the business generally. When both business and user goals align under the same strategy, the result is a focus on providing value for the user, which in turn brings about business value.

Where this view prevails — that user goals are connected to business goals — user testing is one of the ways through which these common goals are optimized, measured, and implemented.