User Test vs Usability Test

October 30, 2014

User test. Focus group. Usability test.

I often see the terms get used interchangeably, but there’s an important difference.

I’m a big proponent of usability testing. Watching people use your product is the best way to improve. But it’s important to understand that the point is to make sure a user can accomplish a task, not to find out if they like the product. I’ve heard it said that usability testing is like watching people walk through a doorway to make sure they don’t trip. It’s not asking people if they like the doorway. (I wish I could remember the source of that analogy.)

People who aren’t tech-savvy often blame themselves when they can’t figure out how to do something. So, when running a usability test, I always tell people, “We’re not testing you. We’re testing the app.” (A line I learned from Steve Krug’s work.) This removes the fear of doing something wrong.

User testing and focus groups, on the other hand, turn a project into design by committee. Putting the product in front of people to see what they like or don’t like is a futile exercise. People are bad at self-reporting if they would use or like a product.

So if you want to improve your product skip the user test and run a usability test instead.

Behind the Scenes at MX

September 23, 2014

Today my company, MoneyDesktop, made some big announcements. The first of which is that we’re changing our name from MoneyDesktop to MX. Our product line has outgrown being tied to the desktop, so MX makes a lot more sense moving forward. And it’s the closest I’ll ever get to being in MxPx (rimshot please!).

We also announced a new product we’ve been working on since the beginning of the year, called Helios. It’s a banking app that brings mobile banking (money transfers, billpay, check deposit, etc) and personal financial management (account aggregation, budgets, categorization, etc) together for the first time. That alone is great, but it’s also built on a cross-platform framework that allows us to manage one code base but run native apps on iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Amazon FireTV, Mac OS X and more.

Designing an app that is platform agnostic has brought up some unique challenges. I wrote an article about the process for Money Summit if you want a behind-the-scenes look.

The Boring Designer

September 16, 2014

The boring designer realizes that the glory isn’t in putting their personal stamp on everything they touch. In fact, most of the time, it’s about leaving no trace of themselves. The boring designer loves consistency. The boring designer loves a style guide. They love not having to worry about choosing the wrong blue or accidentally introducing a new pattern.

The Boring Designer by Cap Watkins