This post was previously on the Pathfinder Software site. Pathfinder Software changed its name to Orthogonal in 2016. Read more.
In our experience, the value of getting feedback from users far outweighs the risks and inconvenience.
As the graph from the Standish report highlighted in the eBook points out, 70% of software features that are built don’t get used, either because they’re not that important to the users, or because of inadequate design. At the same time, important features are often missed, or discovered late in testing.
To put it another way: You never get it right the first time. Frequent feedback from users lets you iteratively improve the product, starting with prototypes and moving through development, preventing wasted effort on unnecessary features and making the features you do build usable and effective (and reducing human factors risks in the bargain.)
In order to make it happen, getting user feedback needs to be planned for and made part of the process. We recommend borrowing the concept of “Three User Thursdays” from Lean User Experience. In this model, every Thursday you bring in three users to talk to. You have a backlog of things to work with them on, from prioritization of features to task flows, to testing alternative designs. There’s a role on the team for recruiting users and making sure they’re available for testing. Most of the testing can be informal (though documented), with formal testing at less frequent intervals.
If you plan for and execute this process, it can become quite efficient and more than makes up for the cost in reduced waste and product improvement.