Design is Decisions – Part III

By | June 17, 2010

Design is decisions.  How do you make those decisions?  There are many competing schools of thought.  I’ll break them down and give you my experience with them all.

  1. A/B or Multivariate Testing
  2. Focus Groups
  3. Hallway Testing
  4. Consensus CYA
  5. Going with your gut

Hallway Testing
Also known as, “Hey, come look at my screen!”  This is my favorite form of decision making.  A small group of people, like 2-3, looking at the screen and talking about what is there.  Sometimes you can just grab a stranger, like the company HR woman or the accountant and show them your work.

When I do this, I will turn my sensitivity monitor way up in my brain.  I watch the person’s facial expressions and body language looking for an indication of what they really think.  Some things I look for:

  • They don’t care, didn’t see anything special if
    • They say, “Yeah, looks good. I like it” and then smile and try to leave.
    • Their eyes do not expand with a look of interest/surprise
    • They don’t smile
    • They keep looking away
  • They actually do like it if
    • They lighten up significantly and use interjections like “Wow, Awesome, Holy Shit, How did you do that?”
    • They can’t figure out how you did what you did
    • They call over someone else to look as if THEY made it
    • They ask alot of questions about the “next” things in the flow

The best way to use Hallway testing is to keep it simple.  Show something, get a reaction, thank the person and keep going.  I don’t think I could design anything without this technique.  I would get creative block almost immediately.  The key warning for this technique is to not overreact to their input.  If they say, “I like it”, that is meaningless.  If they say, “I don’t like it” it is equally meaningless.  You have to be watching their reactions and maybe ask a few questions to understand why they reacted the way they did.

The specifics of how to talk to someone to manage their expectations is important, but too detailed for exposition here.  Just try different techniques and learn from the group.  Maybe certain people react differently.  Grab as many random people as you can.  You never know where a good idea may come from.

Try this technique today and see what you get with 60 seconds of free testing.

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