How To Find Value When Testing The Customer Experience


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When designing websites, graphic interfaces, social media, and more, it’s important to know what the customer is experiencing. To some degree, designers can look over systems and get an idea of how the customer will use a program or site.

Their understanding, however, is always influenced by their own experience. They know what things should do, so they are going to make choices that will push the site or program down the right path. But that doesn’t tell designers very much about the customer experience. That takes determined testing.

Customers, after all, are known for breaking things. They click on the wrong thing, or they click on something they think should do something, but doesn’t. They miss the instructions at the top of the page and don’t know how to complete the form. They don’t have the experience necessary to make the software do what it’s supposed to do; designers need to compensate for that. So they need to measure and understand the customer experience, identifying problems and making sure they’re addressed.

But just diving in to testing customer experiences without knowing what you’re looking for can often negate much of the value of that testing. Planning ahead can make sure that you get as much value from testing the customer experience as possible.

Understand What You’re Testing For

To start testing well, you need to understand what you’re testing for. Does the customer know where to click on the website? Is the website providing the information needed? Is the information converting? Are customers giving their contact information in exchange for tempting ebooks and video courses?

If you don’t understand what you want to know, you won’t be able to accurately measure the results; you won’t even know where to look. This makes it very easy to get overwhelmed by data.

Actual Customer Use Versus Expected Customer Use

Expected customer use is an important part of design, and without data and information about how customers typically use a program or a website, designing is incredibly difficult. But once something is constructed based on expected use, it must be tested on actual customer use.

Sometimes actual customer use is so different from the expected usage that it can feel like designers must start over. This is rarely the case! It may be that the early adopters are using something differently than the eventual average user, for example. It may be worth letting a design rest for a time and seeing if customers become more adept at its use.

Similarly, if just one or two customers are having noticeable problems while everyone else is doing fine, it may be the customer’s fault, not the design’s. Internally, this may be a matter of training or technology; externally, this can simply mean that the customer in question isn’t going to work with the company. It’s up to your business to decide whether or not that’s acceptable.

Ask The Right Questions Of The Right People

Surveys are another way of testing how customers are using and appreciating different business initiatives, from website design to reward programs to new store layouts. It is important to remember that not every survey question is appropriate for every user. A first-time customer is probably very likely to ask for help, and will often be happy to be greeted and directed to the right section. A more experienced customer, however, may not want an initial greeting, and may not want to talk to an associate unless they need to ask a question.

This means that they will rank subjective questions like the importance of greetings, the helpfulness of staff, and the availability of products with very different personal metrics and very different external measures.
So finding out who your power users are and tailoring survey questions towards them is an essential part of any testing method. You also need to find out who are your newbie users; you probably need to ask them a different set of questions.

Testing Doesn’t Solve Every Problem

This is particularly true for companies that are trying to iron out bugs before launch. You can’t test away every single issue. It’s possible – and almost tempting – to delay shipping until every single possibility has been tested and fixed. But since you will be seeing test results from different groups of users, but will not yet have a full understanding of how a broader audience will use your store or your service, you can’t get a full picture of the situation from indefinite testing.

Some knowledge simply must be gathered on the fly. Companies need to launch products, find out how they work, and then examine what they learn. And that is the key: companies need to continue to gather information and adjust their position depending on what they learn. If customers say that they’re not getting enough information on a website, then businesses need to beef up their FAQs. If customers can’t get through on the phone, you need to make sure that sales staff are available at key times.

Customers can provide you a great deal of valuable information based on their experiences. The key is to make sure that you’re gathering the right information by asking the right questions, then offering the most helpful changes.

Margarita Hakobyan
CEO and founder of, an online marketplace of local moving companies and storage facilities. Business women, wife and mother of two with bachelor's degree from the University of Utah with a concentration in International Studies and a Masters Degree also from the University of Utah with a degree in International business.


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