Shorten your feedback loops with Cafe Testing

One of the teams I have been working with lately develop and maintain a retailing web site. Historically what they should focus on was decided by someone high up in the organization with little to no involvement of the team. After a lot of time and money invested most of those ideas turned out to have little to no impact on the number of purchases made through the site. To remedy this we wanted to leverage the collective intelligence of the team and also use a more scientific approach when deciding what to do. The approach we took drew inspiration from Lean UX and Lean Startup. We also used tools like Impact Mapping where the idea is to have a clear goal of what we want to achieve, see what actors could affect that goal and then look at what assumptions we have about those users related to that goal. After that we have our Impact Map and it’s time to get to work with the assumptions. We did this in really short iterations to keep the investments small if assumption turned out be false. One really useful way of validating ideas we found was to do lightweight usability testing. The way we did it often included theses steps: 

  • We have an idea or an assumption about how we can better achieve one of the goals we are striving for at the moment. We selected the assumption that we thought could best contribute to the goal.
  • In the most lightweight way possible we create a mockup, prototype or MVP that could in some way validate or invalidate our assumption.
  • The next step is to do the validation and now it was time to get out of the building. We found that a good place to find test subjects was at a café at the grand central station in Stockholm. The benefit of this is that you find people from all over the country of all different ages. They are very often just waiting for their train and because of that very open to answering some questions in exchange for us buying them a cup of coffee.
  • When we have interviewed about 3-5 persons representing different personas we usually have enough data to go back to the drawing board. Did our assumptions hold true or do we need to focus on something else? Of course we can’t blindly go by what the test subjects were saying but it is usually a good indication.

We can usually go through this cycle in a day and that gives us really fast feedback loops and we avoid investing too much time and money in developing something just because someone high up in the hierarchy decided it was a good idea.

This approach has helped us a lot and perhaps it is something that can help you as well if it fits your context. Please post a comment below if you found this post helpful or if you have tried it yourself and have some insights or experiences to share.



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