What People Say Isn’t Necessarily What They Do
There is a funny story about this fundamental truth.
When Sony was introducing the boom box, the company gathered a group of potential consumers and held a focus group on what color the new product should be: black or yellow.
After some discussion among the group of likely buyers, everyone agreed that consumers would better respond to yellow. After the session, the facilitator thanked the group, and then mentioned that, as a bonus, they were welcome to take a free boom box on the way out. There were two piles of boom boxes. yellow and black. Every person took a black boom box.
The important thing to point out is that people are telling the truth, but what they believe about their behavior doesn’t always reflect reality. This is why it is critical to watch what people really do, and not simply trust what they tell you they do.
This is why we do user testing. When we are designing web sites and performing web site evaluations, we sit down next to a user and watch how they use the web site. We are looking for behavioral answers to questions such as:
- Does the design help users do “x”? (“x” being the desired action)
- What obstacles does the design create?
It often becomes quickly apparent where the major obstacles are and whether or not the web site is meeting people’s needs in an efficient manner when you perform such user testing. The best thing is that it is a very easy and inexpensive process. So there is no reason to not be performing such tests to identify problems with your site design that are also typically very easy and inexpensive to fix.