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The Mom Test


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11 replies to this topic

#1 Randy

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 07:15 AM

Jennifer Laycock posted an excellent article entitled Showing All The Right People All The Wrong Things the other day over at Search Engine Guide. Not only does she touch on why usability and analytics are every bit as important as getting traffic to your site, but gives you a drop dead easy way to start finding out if you have a problem.

QUOTE(Jennifer)
In the world of small business where staffs are small and budgets are tight, shelling out for a usability analysis isn't always (ok, is almost never) feasible. Heck, many small businesses are already digging spare change from the couch in the lounge just to pay their hosting bills. That's why it's important to remember the single most cost-effective usability tool you have in situations like this: your mother.


#2 Jill

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 07:23 AM

You are right, as usual Randy. Great article! It's the simple things that are usually the best.

#3 NASA

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 08:00 AM

Apart from both my mum's being busy running their own companies and online store, testing is a foremost of any application / website.

And never, ever, should the programer, coder, web designer, be the person to do the testing.

It's so easy to miss bugs or simple usability issues when you already know how things should work, want them to work and where everything is!

Even simple form validation can bite you in the ass if you don't get a range of people to test your form and even deliberatly try and break it.

You coded it to only allow numbers in the phone field, are you sure that code is working? did you try and put hyphens, strange characters?

I'm sure a complete stranger will come along, do something really stupid you never even thought of and break your code in seconds...

Remember the first thing they tell you when you learned to drive -> think everyone else on the road is an idiot!

The same principles apply when coding any application or system or website, i'm not saying everyone who visits your site is stupid, but you need people to test it as if they were!

Which begs the question, does Jennifer Laycock think mum's are stupid? giggle.gif

#4 Nueromancer

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 09:31 AM

re testing with starnge characters I once managed to crash an A17 (the bigest Univac Mainframe at the time) by typing a lot of randon stuff into a field the Cat on Keyborad test.

#5 NASA

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 09:43 AM

hysterical.gif so many times I've seen systems crash (I used to be an IBM 4381 / Dec Vax operator wink1.gif ) through lack of data validation routines for user input, or simply not thinking someone would be so stupid.

'The Cat Test', yeah I like thumbup1.gif it's better than 'The Mum Test', plus Cats usually have more time on their hands than mum's do!

#6 Randy

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 10:34 AM

Cats don't follow direction well at all though. wink1.gif

FTR, my mom is naturally biased. As I suspect many are towards their children, no matter how much you tell them you want the cold, hard truth. So I've already stretched things out a bit. People have laughed for years at the fact that I've used Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends of the family as my little testing group.

I do it a bit differently than what Jennifer laid out in that my first test is more a "Would you buy this if you needed it, and how much would you pay?" market research kind of thing before I ever get into development; Followed by a few different layout color variations in a basic design to see which folks who best match my target market like best; Followed by Jennifer's "Do this" type of usability test to make sure things work before opening the doors.

Maybe my relatives and friends are weird, but they genuinely enjoy doing it for me. Heck, in years past when not everyone had a computer or 'Net connectivity I used to get emails from far flung relatives out of the blue asking to be added to the tester roles because they'd just gotten a computer and had heard about my little group! giggle.gif

Part of the fascination may be that they get to peek in on what I'm going to be up to in the next year, so there's the whole reality tv voyeuristic thing going on. But beyond this they all always seem to keep tabs after things get launched by revisiting the sites as they go into development, get opened and go through initial changes. They definitely always ask how well each site is doing at the next family reunion or the next time they see me in Wal-mart. It's gotten to the point that I keep a list of who reviewed what on each site and keep them in the loop at the 1, 2 and 3 year marks via email. And take printouts to family reunions for reference when people ask. Hearing how things are going, whether it's as good as I hoped or not, keeps them interested in helping more in the future.

It's a great, totally free resource almost nobody uses. And I do truly appreciate their involvement. Though I don't stop there by any stretch of the imagination.

As a little side note, I now have (at last count) 15 extended family members who now either supplement or earn their entire income from web-based business. And contrary to what I would have thought, most are not younger folks. Of those 15 only two are around my age or younger. Most of them are earning an income after retiring.

They've all thanked me in one way or another for exposing them to how this stuff works and have all run their ideas for sites through our little group for pre-approval. Most of 'em didn't want to ask themselves (it's the whole People will think I'm crazy syndrome) so I've helped 'em get the ball rolling on their first site with some basic help/advice and sent out the testing group email as if it was going to be one of my sites. It makes for fun when people start asking me at family reunions how one of those is going and I tell 'em: Go ask Uncle Glen. That's his baby. hysterical.gif

#7 NASA

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 10:41 AM

Talk about cheap labour, I bet you have your kids doing the gardening at weekends and washing the car as well lol.gif

QUOTE
Part of it may be that they get to peek in on what I'm going to be up to in the next year, so there's the whole reality tv voyeuristic thing going on.
awe Randy's own family fan club, do you get cousins or relative going ...

Uncle Randy, he's my hero superman.gif , it must be hard for the rest of the family to keep up with such an entrepreneur in the family, or do they like to tax you for money?

#8 torka

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 10:58 AM

QUOTE(NASA @ May 8 2009, 09:00 AM) View Post
Which begs the question, does Jennifer Laycock think mum's are stupid? giggle.gif

I doubt it -- I've met Jennifer's mum, and she's one really sharp cookie. wink1.gif

--Torka mf_prop.gif

#9 Randy

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 11:00 AM

Never had one ask NASA. Well, no more than anybody else has in any other family. They know my policy about loaning money to family... angel_not.gif (It's that there is no such thing as a loan between family. The loaner needs to consider it a Gift and be thrilled if they ever see a dime come back.)

I'd much rather spend a couple dozen hours helping 'em start their own business than spend several hundred hours worrying about whether I should have given 'em some moolah.

#10 NASA

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 11:04 AM

Very true randy very true,

It's better to teach a man to fish, than to give him a fish wink1.gif

#11 Randy

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 12:11 PM

Not to mention that it works out much better for them. Because there's no way in Hades I'd ever agree to give 'em nearly as much money as their little business is bound to make them each month. wink1.gif

#12 1dmf

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Posted 08 May 2009 - 12:12 PM

QUOTE
Cats don't follow direction well at all though.


Simple.... Take one keyboard, one tin of tuna, one cat and a small enclosed room.

Put them all together, you'll get hours of free testing and a clean keyboard lol.gif
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