Luke Johnson
Author:
Luke Johnson
Date:
November 15, 2019
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The things we make are only ever as good as the bounds of our limited imaginations. Inviting people into the creation process will only ever make the final product stronger.

User testing is extremely important when developing anything intended for humans. A design might look truly wonderful, and might even blow your client’s socks off, but how easy is it to use? How intuitive does it feel to a real person?

This is equally important when creating coded functionality. As developers in deep-dive-code-mode, it is easy to feel like the job is done when a script does what it is essentially meant to do. But it may still come up short if it hasn’t undergone the scrutiny of user testing.

For instance, just yesterday I was writing some javascript to generate an in-page navigation menu for web pages with extremely lengthy content. Basically, when the content of the page exceeds 5,000 characters, the script automatically detects all the page’s main headings and creates anchor links for each one to allow readers to jump down to any section of the page without scrolling.

It works really well! At supper that night, my 6 year old son asked me what I was working on that day, and I told him about the automatic menu. He thought it sounded cool, and wanted to see it. He enjoyed pressing the buttons and watching the page zip down to the target section. But then he looked up at me and asked a simple question:

“How do I get back to the top without scrolling?”

At this, I started to laugh to myself. I had overlooked something so simple and essential to a user’s experience because I had been focused on creating the initial automation functionality. I forgot to consider what a real-live person might want to do next.

And so with a mere 15 minutes’ work, I added simple “back to top” buttons to allow users to jump up and down to their hearts’ content. And with this, I returned to my user group (a.k.a., my 6 year old and 3 year old), and they were unanimously impressed.

User testing can feel like a chore, since it can be time-consuming to coordinate, but the results can’t be ignored. The things we make are only ever as good as the bounds of our limited imaginations. Inviting people into the creation process will only ever make the final product stronger.

So, if you’re wondering if your project is intuitively made, put it in front of the nearest 6 year old and get ready to learn a few lessons.