Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Empower your team

Do you know what kind of impact you have when you've included your project development team into your user testing? I'm sure not many realize the benefits of this. While I'm sure most researchers, kind of like the scientific type would rather hide in a dark room to do their tests and only give out findings and recommendations later on so that there are no "biases" or outside forces co-mingling to create skewed results, there are better more efficient and effective ways to get the message across.

The goal for me has been to find ways to empower our team. Find ways so that the development team create their own message from what they have seen and experience by watching user testing. No hearsay reports, no convincing, and very little person to person influencing to design decisions.

By watching user testing, the team gain a few things:

1. Perspective - It's no longer by the developers or sales, it's all about the user and how they go about using the application. While some may say the user is wrong, or they're unfamiliar with it, or they're doing things wrong, one cannot argue with their actual mental patterns, their previous experience, make up all their user behaviors up until the time of testing.

2. Thinking towards a solution - the instant the team sees a user have a problem, the team sees ways in their mind to improve the program concurrently with what just happened in testing. By doing this, it takes the pressure off the usability professional and empowers the team with instant information - a catalyst to improvement.

3. Individual contribution to masterminding - This is the last point to this cascade. We all know - hopefully, that masterminding is one of the most effective tools to get to where we want to be instead of where we don't. By masterminding our design solutions and understanding the catalyst in its different facets, the team no longer designs in a vacuum. Also as individuals, there is some self-gratification to a better job done well.

By empowering my team, I've pushed-out the knowledge to create other ideas, not from myself. The team takes ownership and makes these kind of battles more personal. And with it, the combined effort applied is greater.