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Testing other people’s sites

Before you’ve designed anything of your own, you can get a lot of value out of testing other people’s sites. They may belong to your competitors or they may just be sites that have the same kind of content or the same kinds of users as you. Or they may just be sites that have features you’re thinking of implementing.

Other people’s sites are an underutilized resource. I always like to say that someone has gone to the trouble of building a full-scale working prototype of a design approach to the same problems you’re trying to solve, and then they’ve left it lying around for you to use.

Most people overlook this opportunity, but it can save you an enormous amount of work. If you’re building a travel site, for instance, think how much you could learn by watching people book trips on other travel sites.

HOW YOU TEST IT:

Follow the process spelled out in Chapters 5 through 9.

Give people the key tasks you test on your site. You may want to have each user do the same tasks on two or three competitors’ sites.

But at the debriefing (Chapter 10), instead of determining the worst problems (since you’re obviously not going to fix them), the team should have lunch and discuss what worked well and what didn’t and what lessons can be applied to your own project.

WHAT YOU GET OUT OF IT:

The purpose is to learn from what others have done: what works and what doesn’t.

As you might imagine, testing other people’s sites has great appeal to marketing and management: they’re always curious about what the competition is doing. It’s a great way to get them to come and watch tests—and get hooked on the process.

Doing a round of testing on other people’s sites can also be a good way to get your feet wet without any pressure. People aren’t going to be defensive because it’s not their stuff being tested.

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