Here at the World Headquarters of SiteLogic, I become the focus of some very destructive user testing. No, not website user testing – this is much more exciting, and makes much more noise.

As I posted in the 5 things you may not know, I am on a sizeable plot of land here in Ohio. When I bought it, it was very overgrown, as it hadn’t been maintained much in about twenty years, so it requires a lot of effort to reclaim the land. Unfortunately, it is grown over with briars, wild rosebushes and other invasive plants that aren’t native to the area. This makes maintaining much of anything very difficult – It takes me about a day with my chainsaw to clear about a 10’ x 10’ area of these thickets and briars.

Fortunately for me, my brother is an engineer at Rayco Manufacturing, which makes heavy duty land-clearing equipment. He put me on the list for testing a new land-clearing “mower”, and this week was the week that they brought out this machine for testing! This thing makes short work of overgrown brush and small to medium sized trees (and a few big ones). What makes it so incredible is that it mulches up everything, including the trees, so that there is nothing left but freshly mulched dirt. Of course, I took video . . .

Christmas came a little early, and all this week we’ll be pushing this machine to the limit. I have a very muddy terrain, as it has been raining non-stop for the past week, but it hasn’t slowed this little beast down. I’ve been able to test it as well, and I thought I broke it a few times, and was worried sick about it, but I was simply confirming the “bugs” that they didn’t tell me about. Thanks a lot, brother!

Website User Testing
What does this have to do with website testing? Hey – I can draw an example from anything.
I’ve consulted with many firms and worked with them to establish testing and measuring programs, but very few, if any, regularly talk and interact with their end users. A few more have actually tested their websites with users, but not many more. The bottom line is that just because it is a website does not mean that user testing is not necessary.

Do You Know the Flaws?
My brother is an engineer that works on the tractor part, but they were testing how the tractor uses the mower, the problems in the compatibility and how to improve it. Too many times it is assumed that a website, especially a new one, has been built well. However, without user feedback, there is no way to know what major flaws may rest just under the surface.

Everything may look pretty and work on paper, but nothing can substitute actually getting behind the wheel (or joystick) and seeing what it can do. Until you put it in extreme conditions and see how it reacts, you will never know the proper expectations that you can have for performance. This test was for mud and brush, next week this machine will undergo the heat and dust in Texas. This way, they will know how to sell and set expectations for different regions around the country.

Who’s Fault is it?
Unfortunately, most website owners are more willing to criticize their users for being ignorant than assuming responsibility for a poorly architected site. Unfortunately, the web is very democratic, users vote with a simple mouse click. If they can’t figure out your site, they can simply and easily leave. The value of user testing is to learn the expectations, and develop a continual plan of improvement based on actual user feedback, supported by analytic data.

If your site is being “improved” by a company without data to back up the changes or data in place to measure the changes, then there is really no reason to continue. Why pay for changes that will not or cannot have effective measurement to determine if the changes were worth the price?

User testing is destructive by nature. It first destroys your pre-concived notions about your site, it then destroys parts of the site itself in order to make it better.

User testing – it can’t be beat. Especially when it is 7 tons of metal, treads, hydraulics and spinning metal teeth . . .