what can users tell you?

From How we test fake sites on live traffic, from 42Floors. 

Ignoring the user

At this point, you might be suspicious that we’d been designing in a vacuum. Not so. We’d done plenty of interviews and mockup sessions with users trying to tease out what they wanted, it just never got us anywhere.

Here’s where I issue a disclaimer, lest I get trolled: talking to users is really important, just not about conversion funnels.  Here’s my handy user feedback weighting algorithm:

  • Knowing something broken: 100% accuracy
  • Knowing what they want: 30% accuracy
  • Knowing what they’ll actually click on: 2% accuracy

With this in mind, we set out to disregard the focus groups and drive the design, instead, based entirely on browsing data from live traffic.

Users are really good at telling you what isn’t working for them; but when they tried to just implement what the users told them they wanted, they wound up with something that didn’t actually get any use.

I think there’s a general truism here, you can’t just give the users what they tell you they want, users aren’t so good at telling you want they want (or what they’ll actually use or find valuable, which may or may not be the same thing as what they want).

Note that after realizing you can’t just go on what the focus groups say, however, they did not resort to “Whatever our staff wants,” or “Whatever our customer service people say the users want.” In fact, they specifically “wanted to try ignoring our own design instincts,” not neccessarily trusting them.   They resorted to data.

Read the original article for how they did this.


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