Usability testing is great. It informs us about how to make things that people can use more easily, with less effort, and how we can ensure that users complete tasks in the quickest and most efficient ways. This is all good, and should inform the work that we do, but it shouldn’t dictate.
The problem with testing is that it can only establish rules that people agree upon. If we test a button or some copy on a web page, and a thousand people take the test, all we learn about is the common ground shared by these people. We learn how to build things that aren’t wrong, not how to build things that delight their users—a distinction that is both vitally important, and frequently overlooked.
There is no common ground for delight. Delight is an individual and personal experience—it effects you, and only you. The more we focus on the common ground, the less likely we are to cause delight, and the broader that common ground becomes, the further removed we are from the experience of the individual.
Common ground can be discovered by usability testing, customer service surveys, and any other form of collated data about the experience that people have when they come into contact with us, or with the things that we make. This is important—we should try to build things that aren’t wrong. We should not, however, allow ourselves to become distracted by such things.
People encounter us one individual at a time. You can’t test for that.