Part VI in an ongoing series of Why Products Suck (and what we can do about it).
The sad fact of the matter is that many products are released without a single potential user ever trying to use it. The result are products that make sense from inside the company, but not from the users’ point of view, or products that aren’t ready for use, effectively releasing “alpha” or “beta” products and having users work out (or around) the flaws. This might be an effective business strategy (to get your product out faster), but not necessarily a strong product strategy. Superior products will often beat those that are first-to-market (see: iPod).
The decisions companies (designers, engineers, marketers, developers, manufacturers) make about products can be the wrong ones. And it can be difficult to know that without actually asking customers whether or not a decision is the right one. Now, of course, the customer might not always be right (see: Ford, Henry. “Faster Horse” quote), but they can be a valuable source of input. I’ve yet to participate in a product testing situation that has not resulted in identifying key parts of a product design that users had difficulty understanding or using.
Findings from testing should be actionable; it’s more valuable to know why users didn’t like a product or feature than to simply know they didn’t like it because then the company will know whether or not it’s worth keeping or fixing.
Of course, product testing without implementing the findings is beyond worthless because it’s a waste of everyone’s time and money. The organization has to not only trust the findings (which means trusting and empowering those doing the testing), but also have the willpower and resources to act on the discovered problems, fixing or discarding those parts of the product or even the entire product itself. Time and resources for fixing a product post-testing need to be built into budgets and timelines. To do otherwise is irresponsible, unfortunately common, and assuredly another reason why products suck.