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Using Usability Testing to Resolve Internal Debates

How many of you saw Toy Story 3 this summer?  I know it had to be some of you because the movie grossed  $415.0 million in the U.S. and just made history as only the third animated movie to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar.

In Toy Story 3, Andy boxes his toys up in preparation for going to college, and he intends to put them in the attic.  Instead, the toys mistakenly end up at a daycare center—and the toys think Andy has willingly sent them there.  The toys have to decide: work to get back to Andy or stay at the daycare center and accept that Andy may have given them away.

What’s Best for Everyone versus What’s Best for the Group

Woody, the leader of the toys, makes a convincing case to go back home, even though it will be dangerous. But, the other toys band against him, telling him that he has to accept the truth—that Andy wants to let them go.  Listening to Woody talk, he has good point:  they are Andy’s toys and they should remain loyal to him.

Listening to the toys talk, they also have good points.  Everyone is talking about what to do from his or her point of view—what will serve him or her best as individuals. Watching this scene, it immediately reminded me of working in teams where people see things ONLY from their own points  of view, so much so that they can’t even get on the same page to work out the issues.

Conflict on Digital Strategy Teams

Does this happen on your digital strategy team?  Are you a writer, arguing with a database developer? Or a UX professional clashing with a business executive?  Are you in the unenviable position of being the leader, and watching these arguments back and forth? How can we all get on the same page and decide together what is really best for the user?

Run Usability Tests—on Each Other

Convincing others of your point of view on your digital strategy team can be challenging, particularly if everyone comes to the team with a different skill set.  I recommend running usability tests –  on each other.   Here’s how it could look:

Break up into pairs
The most like-minded, similarly-trained professionals should team up together.

Decide on one or two major goals
Goals could include things such as, “We want the writers to see that shorter directions are more cohesive to moving through the application,” or, “We want the developers to see that using this particular part of the website is unwieldy.”


Design a short script
Think of about 10 questions that get at the heart of what you are trying to prove to the people on your team who you think “just don’t get it.”

Stay impartial
If possible, have someone impartial take the first sample usability script.  See if it works. Revise.  Repeat if you think it’s necessary.

Run the script on volunteers
Find people who don’t know you or your team. Make sure that other members of your team, the ones “who don’t get it” are in the room watching so everyone can learn.

Be similarly open-minded
Keep an open mind when others demonstrate their points of view to you.

Fresh Sets of Eyes—Always Welcome!

You bring huge value when you are close to a project.  It also means though, that sometimes you miss stuff because of how close you are to it. As a writer, I experience this on an almost daily basis. I’ll send something to a client and when they send it back, I can’t believe I misspelled a word or worded a phrase awkwardly.  I’ve looked at it 17 million times, believe me, but when you’re so close you can’t catch everything.

That is why digital strategy teams should always be welcoming to a second set of eyes and a fresh perspective – either from within the team or someone new. By running usability testing on very specific sticking points that continually come up, you will be able to take a step back and see it through the most important person’s eyes of all: your user.

What other tips do you have for resolving internal debates?