Do you really need Usability Testing?


November 12, 2014

Should you do usability testing on a perfect design?

One of our customers is the IntersectFund. They are a nonprofit microlender who have trained, coached and financed hundreds of New Jersey's emerging entrepreneurs from lower income groups.

The Intersect Fund Logo

Given that they’ve been doing it for 7 years, our customer was already very comfortable with the needs and the workflow of the the Loan Officers - who are the primary users of the system.

Considering this, we felt confident on the designs too. But eating our own dog-food, we forced ourselves to conduct a Usability Test anyway. Read along to find out what we found. Let’s just say, Steve Krug wouldn’t be surprised.

A Quick Intro to The Product

The first product we’re building for the IntersectFund is called Closer. The goal of Closer is to make the process of Closing a loan much more efficient:

Persona - The Loan Officer

The Loan Officer is the primary user of Closer. Her role involves meeting Loan Applicants, understand their needs, and help get their loan approved.

Jane Doe - Example Image

Jane Johnsons

Age: 30

Location: NJ

Speaks Spanish




How We Did The Usability Test

Since the IntersectFund Team is based out of NJ, we decided to do remote usability testing with two Loan Officers. We used Google Hangouts on Air for conducting and recording the test for later use - Everybody already has it installed, automatically saves the video to youtube, and easy to share the video privately with multiple people.

Here’s What We Found

Closer required them to upload single bank statements for 3 months. What we found though was that each month was stored in a separate scanned document. That meant they had to combine them before uploading.

After the Collateral Documents are uploaded, the loan officer is supposed to enter a few details from the document such as validity of the document. This is to ensure that the validity of the documents are checked soon after the upload. During the usability test, we found the Loan Officer constantly switching windows between the new system and the document to fill all the fields. Since the fields were important, she did that frequently with smaller chunks of data.

During the process of closing a loan, there’s a step when the Loan Officer explains how things will work out, to the Borrower. We have a page which is supposed to help her explain. What we found out though was that the interface was hardly used during explanation.

The browser vendors aren’t doing a great job with making the Webcam Permissions apparent. In this case, they Loan Officers were using chrome. It’s the same color as the address/bookmarks bar and the buttons aren’t highlighted either. Complete amiss.

webcam permission - chrome browser

With so much information overload these days, it doesn’t matter how good intentions you have and how short you try to keep it. Nobody reads the help-text. They may come back to it when they face any error. But, don’t expect them to read it in the first pass.

For some reason, the address line 2 was made mandatory. Since we tested with some real data though, we figured that address line 2 was hardly used which we later made optional.

We discovered that the current way of highlighting the fields with errors is too subtle and not very intuitive.

One of the pages is supposed to collect the details the Loan Borrower. At the end of the page are the email and phone fields which would be used to send reminds to the borrower. We saw that the browser would auto-fill the Loan Officer’s details and since the Loan Officer would be filling it up for the borrower, she perceived it to be her details instead of the borrowers.

We also found that there wasn’t any place where IntersectFund logo was displayed. The Loan officer thought that it would be essential to maintain the trust with the borrowers.

How We Prioritized

With all these insights from the usability test at hand and the constraints of time we decided to prioritize related issues over first time user experience issues for the following reasons:

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