The Power of Iterative Design and Testing
29 Jul 2008

The Power of Iterative Design and Testing

29 Jul 2008

Jakob Nielson’s article, Weekly User Testing: TiVo Did It, You Can Too provides a great case study supporting testing early and frequently in the design process to produce exceptional design. Having worked with TiVo, I can say that their approach to usability and research is stellar, and their user experience team is very talented, so it is great to see this recognition.

The specific web redesign project mentioned in the article enforced TiVo’s user-focused culture, and finally brought user-friendliness to its website. As Nielson quotes:

“I’m selling you a product where the key differentiator is ease of use,” says Margret Schmidt, the company’s vice president of user experience and design, “but if the website isn’t easy to use, how will you believe that the product is? We tried to bring that to the site.”

The outcome: TiVo’s new website is simple and clear while still being media-rich, and scored in the top 20% of Nielson’s study on web usability.

Nielson summarizes the benefits of this approach well with the following main points:

  1. Costs the company less.
  2. Offers motivation.
  3. Helps drive business decisions.
  4. Creates a testing culture.
  5. Builds internal knowledge.

I wholly advocate for this approach as it improves design. Period. No matter how good a graphic designer, interaction designer, content writer or product manager you are; there are invaluable insights you will get from testing frequently that will improve your final product.

Testing at this level not only reduces costs, but also facilitates inter-departmental collaboration (see our previous article: Avoiding the Problems of Design by Committee). Just think, TiVo conducted only 12 tests in 12 weeks. How many projects do you know of that have accomplished that much in 12 weeks with such a usable and appealing outcome?

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