We’ve all been there. While performing a task or teaching someone a workflow, it occurs to you that you’re probably just doing it that way because John Smith, who left the association 8 years ago, did it that way. When developing a new site’s information architecture or interface, we can fall into this same trap. That’s when it’s time to see things from a new perspective. In this case, from our members’ perspectives.

Jakob Nielsen recently wrote about field study as a way to know your user before even starting a project. There is a lot of information out there about conducting field studies for usability design, but you don’t need to have to have a large budget and ample staff resources to get some valuable information. Focus groups can be a great way to get a project off the ground. Nielson’s stance that you only need to test with five users has stood the test of time.

However, there is a difference between what users say and what they do. As you choose among various usability testing scenarios, be aware of these differences. Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman says, “The correlation between stated intent and actual behavior is usually low and negative.” Here is some great information about common mistakes with focus groups.

Interested in finding out more about usability testing? Contact us! We’ll be happy to discuss how your association can benefit. Also, look for an upcoming article Sherry Budziak wrote for FORUM magazine that focuses on usability testing.

Resource: User Experience v. Market Research. For insight into the difference between user experience and market research, read through this Q&A with Apala Lahiri Chavan.

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