Customers are the driving force behind business strategy. It’s no longer enough to have a product that functions — there is now an expectation that a product should delight. The only way to know how someone feels when using your app, walking through your store, or calling your support team, is to let them tell you. We are in the age of the customer, and it’s high time we embrace it.

I agree, but my boss isn’t sold.

We’re right there with you. A common challenge that UX professionals face is that, while listening to customer feedback seems like a no-brainer to us, others are not yet convinced it’s necessary. And when those “others” happen to be the decision makers in your company, it gets significantly harder to make the case. Read on to see common battles you’re likely about to face, and how to come back swinging.

1. When you hear, “It’s too expensive…”

Clear the air. Any upfront cost is going to induce sticker shock. The beauty of user testing is — more often than not — it’s a one-and-done expense. In reality, the alternative is much more expensive: it’s 10x cheaper to fix usability problems prior to development, and fixing usability problems after deployment is 100x more expensive than fixing them at the design stage.

Fixing usability problems after deployment is 100x more expensive than fixing them at the design stage.

2. When you hear, “We don’t have time…”

Pleasantly surprise them. It’s never too late to schedule user testing for your product. There is a preconceived notion that user testing will take an obscene amount of time and delay production. Simply put, this isn’t the case. Some of the best UX professionals only do a few hours of usability testing here and there in order to gain insight on a specific feature or two. Bonus sell: only 5 users are recommended for these tests. That’s one or two days worth of meetings, leaving plenty of time for analysis and reporting to be finished up, all within one week. Major themes and trends can be deduced almost immediately and passed along to the design & development teams.

Detail a timeline to show your bosses that user testing doesn’t take as long as they think — and be sure to emphasize this benefit: testing with only five users will reveal 85% of usability problems.

3. When you hear, “Development is too far along to make changes…”

Justify the means. People are simply reluctant to change their work — and their reluctance increases the more energy they put into it. This is called the law of human effort, and it’s definitely a hurdle you will face. Help your superiors realize that problems will be revealed sooner or later — and the later it is, the more work is wasted.

4. When you hear, “If the design is good, we shouldn’t need user testing…”

Respectfully disagree. Seventy percent of software projects fail due to the business losing focus on the customer and their needs, resulting in a lack of user acceptance. If you haven’t asked your users, how do you know the design is good? Has anyone tried using it who is neither a designer nor usability expert? Did they have questions? A good design is not guaranteed to work. User testing will reveal user frustrations you never knew existed. You will learn that features you thought were needed are, in fact, not necessary, allowing you to redirect your resources. Additionally, it will confirm whether user-centered design was the driving force behind building your product.

5. When you hear, “We don’t have access to users…”

Provide options. People often think they need to cut through rolls and rolls of red tape to find and screen participants for a usability test. However, once your team knows that only five users are needed, the task becomes much less daunting. If time is your biggest constraint, there are many agencies that will take care of this process for you pretty quickly. Launching an athletic apparel website? We’re willing to bet five people on your team know at least one person who shops online for athletic clothing. Reach out to them and Voila! You’ve got five potential users.

6. When you hear, “We’ll just let the market do the user testing…”

Walk out of the room (just kidding, but you’ll want to).The best possible ammunition for selling anything to your c-suite is to show them the cold, hard numbers. Take a look at the statistics of 72 cases where usability metrics were available from projects that had been redesigned for usability:

Average Improvement Across Web Projects that were Redesigned for Usability

  • Sales / Conversion Rate 87%
  • Traffic / Visitor Count 91%
  • User Performance / Productivity 112%
  • Use of Specific (desired) features 174%

Explain the ROI impact of not performing user testing and show them how much they can benefit. Executive-minded people are driven by good business decisions. Additionally, explain that by ignoring their users, they’ll lose more than just money. They’ll lose customer loyalty, trust, and future engagement when users realize the product was not designed with them in mind. Analytics will show you there’s a problem. User testing will reveal what it is and why.

7. When you hear, “We’ve already done in-house testing…”

Point out the obvious. Testing internally is helpful in many ways: it lets the facilitator practice a comfortable conversation flow, helps to locate prototype errors, and allows you to test your technology to avoid mishaps during testing. Internal testing does not, however, gather accurate data about user behavior.

Internal testing does not gather accurate data about user behavior.

Unless you are building a system specifically for internal employees to use, testing a product or system in-house will give you biased results. Of course your developers think it’s easy to use — they built it! Internal employees are not your target user. Not to mention, they will be more reluctant to give negative feedback to fellow co-workers.

User testing is more than a valuable asset to your business. It’s the secret weapon in your arsenal; the differentiator between a novelty and a necessity. But you already know this, so help them see the light. Don’t let a lack of understanding diminish the potential of your product.