We like the design, the client likes the design. Is that enough opinion to sign-off on a project?


Well, sometimes it is. Circumstance, budget and time can dictate that we rely on our experience and the opinions of the stakeholders involved in a design and branding project. However there are certainly times when it’s worth reminding ourselves (and the clients) that we aren’t the intended end user, in terms of usability or aesthetics. Testing reminds us that we will experience the same design differently. Design is always subjective. Although the client is the boss, ultimately we take responsibility for delivering a product that will work for the end user first, and not simply a product that appeals to the narrow selection of us/and or the client. Testing helps shifts the focus away from us, and even a little from the client, toward what will be the best outcome for the relationship between the client and their audience.


Further, testing can help reveal unseen problems. New users will interpret and use the design differently to those closely involved in the inception/development/creation/sign off. It’s entirely normal for problems to exist, but the earlier they are discovered through wider experience of the design, the better and more polished the final product will be.


No matter how smart and experienced the designer, until a design is actually used, no one really knows how successful it’s going to be. Testing and the resulting feedback can allow the design team to take a step back from their micro-view of the work and get a glimpse of what the work will actually look like to the end-user.


The most common test (across all areas of concern) is A/B testing. Holding two designs next to each other will allow the participant to make the sort of snap, value free aesthetic judgements that those close to the design might miss. It is possible to make A/B testing more complicated (and add specific value) by tilting the questions asked. For instance, loaded questions like; ‘which design is more professional?’ ‘Which logo is more authentic?’ can push the answers toward the qualitative and away from a simple like/dislike (quantitative) responses and provide more value for brands as a result.


There are downsides to testing. External testing will always cost more than a simple internal snap test. It will slow down the process and can, in some cases, push toward a more homogenous result. But testing can be a very rewarding process if used correctly. It can deliver extra perception and insight that will drive intelligent design decisions and ultimately help brands to communicate more effectively with the target audience.


By Oliver Brown