"I don't need user testing" Part I: Understanding clients' frictions
There is something odd and unique about the UX designer's role: their expertise has to always be challenged by end users in order to be validated. This kind of vulnerability isn't expressed in any other digital role: from developers to illustrators, everyone is expected to be assertive in their decisions.
Clients want you to know everything: after all, knowledge is what they are paying you for.
One of the first things you learn as a UX designer is to not let ego drive your decisions regarding design; one of the hardest thing to do as a UX designer is to pass on that knowledge to your client.
Understanding clients' profiles
Every client will have their own reason as to why they don't feel like doing user testing.
"But I am the target audience: I know what I want"
— Every product owner since the dawn of time.
Such reasons can be split into three distinctive — but not exclusive — categories:
1/ I'm not confident in the value of my product
Value is the core of what you are building: it's a term we use to describe the actual need there is for your product.
Testing value is frightening just as much as exposing yourself to criticism: it shakes the foundation of who you are. Deep down, a lot of clients are afraid to hear the truth, understandably so when it may imply re-building or re-thinking the product entirely.
Because of that fear, they often indulge themselves in vanity metrics to feel confident in what they're building, instead of healthily doubting the nature of their venture.
2/ I'm not confident in the design I have
These type of clients are a designer's nightmare: they love to either see ten versions of the same screen for no apparent reason, or spend late nights redesigning screens themselves in PowerPoint.
In their mind, there is a "perfect" version of their product, but "we're just not there yet". The reality — of course — is that design is an iterative process that is never finished.
If you try to suggest user testing to them, they will reply with stuff like "I cannot expose my future clients to something that's not finished yet. We'll see about testing once the design is done".
👌 Protip: it will never be.
3/ I only trust myself (aka the egomaniac)
Once in a while, you will meet a client that designs his own screen, or comes up with his own ideas of what is the ultimate design.
They don't come to you for guidance, your role is one of a scribe: to translate into design what their brilliant mind thought of. Accepting user testing is to allow vulnerability; criticizing the ego maniac's creation is received as a personal attack on them.
Because delusion is the common denominator in these 3 cases, our role as UX designers is to provide concrete, excuse-proof evidence of the necessity of feedback in the design process.
Since these discussions often get highly emotional, the goal is to successfully bring data (as opposed to an "interpretable" interview) into the process.
This is the first part in a two-part series on user testing.