Customer Experiences, Critiques & Collaboration: Tips for User Testing

customer feedback

Adam Conner claims “Critique is at the core of collaboration” and I’d like to believe we all agree.

However, just 1% of companies in 2015 deliver an excellent customer experience and 47% of companies do not have a fixed budget for usability testing. This means that despite our best efforts, the majority of us are not meeting our users’ expectations and don’t have proper plans in place to actively gather – and act upon – customer critiques.

Collaborating with our customers and conducting user testing needs to become a priority – and that means integrating it into creative, development and marketing processes. 


First things first: a user testing plan cannot be created in a silo. Instead, it should be a joint practice between stakeholders. Ask yourself:

  • Who was a part of this project’s initial conception?
  • Who has helped execute it?
  • Is there someone who manages the key performance indicators?
  • What about someone with a peripheral view who has insight into the audience? 

Getting a variety of perspectives will ensure the test plan covers all angles. Plus, it always helps to have team support when you’re about to receive a healthy dose of constructive criticism from your customers! Keep in mind, customer feedback should not be taken personally. Instead, look at it as a way to understand your customers’ personal needs. Use that mentality to keep your group excited, because delivering on customer needs and exceeding their expectations feels good and is good for business, even if it means more work up front. 


What are you going to test? There are endless options, but here are a few suggestions

  • Refresh existing content – Testing can help uncover problem areas.
  • Test against competitors – Find out what makes you stand out or blend in amongst a crowded landscape.
  • Beta test a new concept – Who doesn’t love validation? Use testing to make sure you’re surpassing expectations right out of the gate.
  • Develop and test user personas – Get insight into how unique audiences interact with your site differently.
  • Review mobile enhancements – Mobile! Mobile! Mobile! Need we say more?


Now that everyone’s at the table and you know what you want to test, it’s time to discuss why you’re conducting the testing. Your answer should relate back to a larger company goal. 

For instance, are you trying to increase satisfaction among a particular audience segment? Are you trying to create a leading-edge industry web tool? Maybe you simply want to understand what conversion-driving content customers find most valuable and make sure they are able to find it. 

Whatever it is, your purpose needs to align with a bigger organizational strategy, because user testing will undoubtedly expose areas of opportunity and room for improvement – and we all know what that means: more work. Make sure this work will add value and help your business achieve its biggest goals.


You have a purpose; now you need a plan:

  1. Select a testing approach: In person, remote, moderated or unmoderated
  2. Determine any development/creative needs: Live site, prototype, mobile app, wire frames, concepts
  3. Choose the right audience and audience size: Your audience should align with your target market. Set qualifiers if you’re testing a random sample to ensure responses will be relevant. If you can, test REAL users!
  4. Set the scene: Create a realistic scenario for the tester. Help them feel as if they are actually making a purchasing decision – the more true-to-life the scenario is, the more relevant the results will be.
  5. Ask clear and concise questions: Break questions down into “mini-tasks” with only one or two actions each. Have testers talk out loud as they complete the tests so you can understand what drives their actions.


Once testing is complete, you’re bound to have more information that you know what to do with. Start by taking a deep breath and laying it all out. Organize all the information by theme or insight, then get your team back in a room to prioritize together. 

Knowing the “effort to impact” ratio for each insight is vital. Based on the impact of each idea, you can begin to evaluate what is possible to tackle in the near, short and long term.

Remember: A perfect page, tool or idea won’t last long. User expectations are always changing and that means the possibility for new concepts and critiques are endless. The only solution is to collaborate with customers and across teams continuously, and to keep reviewing and updating your site content.

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