Beta testing helps users

Following on from my last post ‘Don’t forget your users’ about remembering your users I wanted to share with you how BT tries to help users to test new sites and services so we give them what they want.

It sounds so obvious doesn’t it?  Well, my experience in BT and seeing other intranets shows it can be something all too easily forgotten in the enthusiasm to launch sites and services.  The owner thinks he/she knows what users want and either doesn’t test or tests too late and isn’t able to male the changes in time.

So, what does BT do?  In the past we sometimes planned to the nth degree what we thought users needed and made sure it was tested and tested until the owner thought it was perfect before launching it on users.  The trouble was it wasn’t always what users wanted due to the passage of time, misunderstandings, changing needs, etc.

Well, BT takes a far better, agile and innovative approach now.  With Web 2.0, open source coding, low/nil set up costs it combines so BT encourages site owners to start up something very quickly before all the detailed business requirements are settled.  As long as there is a clear business need a beta test can quickly be set up for little effort and cost and offered to users to test out if there really is a business and user need.

BT has found that users feeding back on the beta test site has helped create much better solutions that exceed the original requirement.  The direction a site or service takes can be very different than originally planned for and can be far more effective.

Likewise, BT has also found users saying the beta site is of no use to them.  The site has been quickly closed down with little time and effort lost.

Gone are the days when organisations spent millions of punds developing huge systems that users found unproductive and unusable…………………but had to put up with them because switching them off wasn’t an option.

I’ll be talking more about ‘Exploiting user testing: Getting users to answer the difficult questions’ at the Ark Group’s ‘Delivering a user-centred intranet through superior design and usability’ conference on 19 November.

8 responses to “Beta testing helps users

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