Planview Blog

Your path to business agility

Engineering Teams, Products & Tools

Optimizing UX: How to set up your own Usability Testing Program in-house  

Published By James Lustenader
Optimizing UX: How to set up your own Usability Testing Program in-house  

Testing Tasktop Integration Hub’s user experience is a rather complex undertaking. As my colleague Rebecca explained in her blog last week, “Tasktop suffers from an interesting, almost paradoxical problem: the users who benefit most from our product often have no idea that it exists”. To address this problem, we devised a Usability Testing Program — which, as a smaller company — presented us with some interesting challenges.

Challenge 1: Not enough dedicated resources available to run the Usability Testing Program.

If your company isn’t a large-scale organization, rolling out a new team process can be tricky due to a lack of resources. For our Usability Testing Program we faced two resource-based challenges:

  1. Ideally, we need one facilitator and at least one note-taker. However, with limited UX designers, we forced to enlist colleagues from other domains in the company
  2. Each session for usability testing can take up to one hour, as well as additional time for a debrief and analysis. This means adding even more items to a colleague’s already heavy workload. Fortunately, the importance of the program — coupled with the collaborative and supportive culture instilled at the company — meant that our fellow Tasktopians were more than happy to donate some of their precious time 

Solution: Create a UX guild involving people from other domains to help

We built a UX guild – a flexible working group that involves people who are interested in the same domain or topic of user experiences such as feature design, customer engagement, and user research. Anybody from any team can join the guild, which can be a temporary or permanent initiative (ours is the latter).

Our group comprises a wide range of skills including product designer, technical writer and frontend engineers. We share knowledge of product design and discuss the user experience challenges in the product, the latest UX trends, and how to make our UX work more visible across the company.

While there may be a lack of understanding around UX from people outside of the domain, the initiative can help foster company-wide understanding into a crucial component of our software products. In our current program, we have a quick meeting (about 10-15 mins) after each usability testing to address any issues that come up. We also have our weekly UX guild meeting to flag key items that need attention in order to continuously improve the process. 

Challenge 2: We deliver software fast – a challenge for a small design team

Each quarter we will need to deliver multiple features, especially since we have more than one product. Ideally, we’d like to do an iterative design, and fully test the usability of the feature before we deliver it. However, that approach can slow down our delivery speed…

Solution: We conduct usability testing on the go, and do quick feedback session with customers

We initiate usability testing on the fly. Typically, we will have at least three sessions with three different participants to obtain feedback on the usability of each design. We then revisit the design and improve it based on that feedback. This process works for a one or two-month project. However, fast feature delivery pushes us to move faster, so we have our review design session after each usability testing session to refine the design as quickly as possible.

People may ask how we are able to determine if the feedback applies to all people or just to the individual user testing subject. The truth is we can’t know;  it’s on the UX designer to make the judgment call.

In addition, the approach of refining in-between the sessions doesn’t apply to workflow design which is usually very ambiguous and bias. So to reduce the risk of the wrong calls for refining workflow, we will present our previous design to validate which design makes more sense if users are confused with the current design. This is similar to AB testing but in a more lean way. 

We also hold quick feedback sessions. These are sessions where designers go through their design with a group of people — such as UX designers, researchers, product managers, and some developer — to obtain feedback directly from them at the same time. From these sessions, we are not just getting design feedback in terms of user experience/interface, but also gaining insights on design decision in terms of business drive and technical constraints. Thoughts and feedback from different domains help shape the design and make it more practical, usable and business validated. 

Crucially, we also bring it one level up to the customers by conducting quick feedback sessions with our Customer Advisory Board. During the session, customers get a peek of the upcoming feature so we can gather early user input. While it won’t be as unbiased as the feedback we obtain from the usability testing, we can establish common challenges reflected in the design. Also, a post-survey after the session can very helpful.

Challenge 3: Domain knowledge is required to participate in usability testing for enterprise software.

Usability testing on enterprise software is always a challenge because it usually requires domain knowledge. For instance, one of our products is related to integrations between tools, so the people who need to understand how the integration is working also need to be familiar with different tools to be able to provide valid feedback. The customers who request the feature are the ideal participants but they’re not always available, so we started with our internal users across the company who use our tool in-house.

Solution: Solicit input from internal users  

To get a sense of people’s familiarity with our product and different tools, we sent out a pre-survey including, but not limited to, questions related to tools, our product, and even familiarity with our competitor’s product and willingness of participating in usability sessions. With the survey, we also provided a clear overview of what usability testing is and what we’re looking to achieve with the initiative. 

We had a pretty strong response with 50% of the company providing feedback, with all departments contributing. Over 90% were willing to participate in the usability testing session. Yay! With the help of the survey, we built our participants pool which is super helpful for recruiting for the program.

Key takeaways from this practice

  • Don’t limit the group to people who are only from your own domain, involve people who are interested in the same domain as well. This can not only help your work but also help you grow and improve your professionalism in your career as well 
  • The standard process is there to follow and helpful as guidance but you don’t have to rigidly stick to it. By making it more flexible, you will find the one fit into your workflow best while practicing.
  • Thinking more ahead of time and being prepared for the upcoming challenge will help you along the way

What can Tasktop do for you?

Are you a tool admin looking for a simple way to integrate the tools in your software delivery value stream? Or maybe one of the specialists involved in planning, building and delivering enterprise software who’s fed up with pesky manual overhead? A highly-personalized demo will show you how our sophisticated toolchain integration automates product-critical information between teams and tools to make your job dramatically easier and help you accelerate the value delivery of your products.

Related Posts

Written by James Lustenader Sr. Manager, Customer Advocacy

James has over 12+ years of marketing expertise, starting in College Sports and then moving to the Software sector to manage Customer Advocacy Programs within Apttus, Clarizen and now Planview. He is passionate about customer story-telling and strengthening customer connections, bringing a data & process-driven approach to everything he does. James also manages Customer Advocacy Programs in a way that helps both the clients' & the vendor's reach their goals, positioning themselves as market-leaders and innovators.