“We don’t have the budget or time for user testing,” is something I’ve heard all too often during planning and estimating meetings. Testing with real users has traditionally been an expensive and time-consuming line item in project plans—usually one of the first to be cut when budgets are tightened. It’s no mystery why: most testing methods have classically been stressful to set up, requiring a tremendous amount of scheduling, coordination, resources, and time.
In 1998, I built my first website. I hadn’t gone to college yet, and my professional goals had little to do with pursuing web design and a lot to do with playing in a rock band. While my peers were mowing lawns, washing cars, and frying things, I was curiously learning about HTML and attempting to share my efforts with the world. As my skills got sharper, I quickly realized that there were businesses out there that would actually pay me to do this… and it certainly beat having to get an afterschool job.