Never use the word ‘Test’

When I first started life as a user researcher, it was commonplace (and it it still is) to refer to research as user testing or usability testing. I soon observed that when you use the word ‘test’ it:

a) Implies that you’re testing the end user (which is wrong, you’re testing the interface, you’re understanding of the customer, your user journeys, etc).

b) As soon as you mention the word ‘test’ to a participant they instantly tense up and worry. I used to say something along the lines of ‘please don’t be concerned, we’re not testing you, we’re testing the software’ and even this was too much. It’s a bit like if I say to you, don’t think of a pink elephant, the first thing you think of is a pink elephant – you just can’t help it, it’s how the human brain works.

I also noticed that when I used the word ‘test’ sometimes participants would ask me during the research session how they were doing or ask whether they’d got something right. In effect, they were treating it like a test. I haven’t experienced this since I stopped all use of the word ‘test’.

Now, when speaking with participants I always use the word ‘research’ which has a much more positive connotation. Of course, clients still use terms like user testing, and that’s absolutely fine, let’s not undo all the hard work ux professionals have done over the years to gain awareness of what we do, but let’s keep in mind that we’re always researching and aiming to understand things from the perspective of your target audience.

Have fun researching! 🙂

5 thoughts on “Never use the word ‘Test’

  1. mrst2014 says:

    This is so true! I tend to use the words “focus groups” or “one on one sessions”. But research is a great word to use! I also say things like “we would like your feedback on how you think ‘this’ is working” and get them to be the ones who are doing the judging.

  2. Terry Patterson (@vivistar) says:

    Absolutely! This caught my eye because I recently used this same rationale when I had to explain why I am not very fond of the word “test” in usability studies. I do like to use “studies” or usability evaluations. I like how you suggest using the word “research” instead. The bottom line is that we want to make participants feel as comfortable as possible, and not nervous about their participation because their initial perception is that they’re being tested. Good post!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s