Remember that scene from Glengarry Glen Ross (Top 5 movie for me and a great Play too) where Alec Baldwin’s character has been brought in by the home office to motivate the underperforming sales team? He tells them: “Always Be Closing.” And that’s good advice for user experience teams also, but with a slight twist: always be testing.
UX teams, companies, and product developers are always finding ways to justify why they take a cherry-picking approach to user experience research. They analyze and identify single pain points they feel are worthy of putting the full force of research, behind, then they do a bit of research and go back to whatever else they were doing.
When they identify these junctures where it’s deemed best to include users in the design or product development process, researcher teams often say they’re trying to save time, cut corners, tamp down on rising resource use or cost. There’s a hard truth that comes along with this approach: There is no ideal time to include user research in design and development.
While methods may vary based on what stage of development you are in, the main takeaway is that there is never a bad time to test and there’s never a time when you won’t improve what you’re building by including users. The right time is all the time.
When Baldwin’s character tells those salesmen to Always Be Closing he knows that if they don’t, they will never hit quota. He is trying to get them to focus on continuity, momentum, creating a continuous flow of improvement and so should you. If you make testing and research an integral part of your end-to-end (and back again) product lifecycle, you’ll be gathering insights and making improvements all along the way. You will also help your organization build a culture of user-focused product development that will pay off in ways far beyond any individual improvements gained through one research initiative or another, meant to address a single pain point.
Here are just a few of the ways this approach will pay-off across the organization:
- Protects UX: Integrated rather than isolated means UX is also protected. Making UX an integral part of your process means it can’t be cherry-picked out. It’s as much a part of product development as discovery, design or programming. If these research methods are not add-ons that teams have to curry favor for—cycle after cycle—then they will never be left out when something else takes priority.
- Increase leadership involvement and awareness. Taking a continuous loop approach to UX creates more opportunities for senior management to become aware of the gains made through UX methods. This leads to a cultural shift where a senior manager becomes more aware of how critical UX is to product development overall.
- Increases cross-functional exposure and awareness: Building a culture of UX contributes to an organic approach to cross-training teams. If UX becomes part of every stage of development, then team members at each stage will have exposure to not just the methodology but also the results and how those results affect product success or failure. This process of continual exposure plants the seed for UX to become a part of every discipline’s thinking.
- It can’t be forgotten: If UX isn’t siloed, it can’t be forgotten. Making UX an integral part of every phase makes UX the hub of the product development wheel.
- Gives UX a seat at the table: When UX is part of every cycle that means UX staff is present when decisions are being made, rather than cycling in and out of the process. It gives UX a permanent seat that table.
- It’s a lifecycle approach. Always Be Testing is a lifecycle approach to managing a project or product. You shouldn’t stop testing and conducting user research until your product breathes its last breath, and even then, you could use user research methodology to do a post-mortem, if you like.
When UX methodology is integrated into every step of a development approach, it contributes to creating a culture of continuous improvement. No matter the product or service, this approach will payoff.
“You close or you hit the bricks,” Baldwin’s character tells the salesmen, and I’m here to tell you, test or you hit the bricks!
Remember: third prize is you’re fired.