What I´ve learned from Customer Validation

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Along my career I’ve had the chance to work for big consultancies, banking and telecom corporations, including small Startups. This path has led me towards the UX / UI sector of the technological industry.

The life cycle of most UX projects will start with a functional document stating the process and purpose of the desired application or service. During this cycle, the usual path is executing user tests after each iteration, these intervals normally only contemplate some specific functionality that later on would be tested. The testing process normally involved various iterations depending on which functionality or processes that have been renewed towards a better experience for the user, and trying not to loose sales & metric conversions along the way.

Sure it´s good to test part by part, but are we building a platform/app that really suits the needs of the customers? Or are we basing ourselves on pre-molded structures and fixed methodologies of the UX world?

As Steve Blank preaches in his book The Startup Owner’s Manual, you need to get out of the building for customer discovery interviews and see your customers’ pupils dilate when they see your product. Nothing beats meeting face-to-face with a customer.

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In my personal voyage through Lean Startup methodology which we applied during the whole process of creation for our startup, we discovered Customer Validation. We started to realize that the effort applied towards the whole construction of the actual product needed some kind of real and final customer testing.

Therefore we started to test our application with real customers. A one-to-one session with each user has brought major insight compared to making and analysing any survey.

The direct feedback from showcasing your application in front of the real customer provides us with tangible and valuable information.

Ideally to test our product, like Steve Blank preaches in Lean Startup, you must obtain 50 real users. The process in between is based on iteration as well, but this time you would only focus on flaws every 5-10 customers. When these flaws are determined and most important recurrent by customer feedback, then you would apply changes to the prototype. By using this methodology, the iterations applied would be less time consuming than an user testing, and much more valuable and useful.

Sincerely I have learnt more from Customer Validation in the past 5 months than in my last 2 years in the UX field. During the process I have appreciated that all the work done before was driven always by “the client”, but since there are various levels of separation between the concept and the customer itself it´s very easy to get lost and the outcome would be less efficient and real. Also the conclusion derived from this methodology can be recycled for creating and discovering new business models derived from the original one.

I truly start to think that user testing is not a complete and effective tool for validating a product. In conclusion, I´ve started to notice that user testing is no longer a precise and valuable methodology since it doesn´t contemplate the whole spectrum, just a little portion of the entire project. Customer Validation from now on would be my preferred methodology when approaching any future projects.

Let´s not make pre-established barriers determine our workflow and results.

Posted on September 2, 2014 in Design

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