By Michael Heraghty on December 7th, 2017
While usability testing is now standard practice in consumer software development, enterprise software still poses challenges for those seeking to conduct usability testing, including
Enterprise software products typically have fewer users than consumer software products, so you’re likely to be recruiting from a limited pool.
Your system may require specific domain knowledge — if you try to test users “off the street”, they may not understand some of the content, labels or jargon.
Enterprise software companies have to manage their customer relationships carefully. To recruit test participants, you may need to go through established channels and protocols, with no guarantee of success.
Different customers may have different settings, and individual users may have restrictions or privileges. Software with a zoo of configurations can be hard to test.
Test with internal users who aren’t involved in the product. The folks in departments like Finance and Admin departments should have absorbed a little domain knowledge. In any case, you can test elements such as layout and navigation. As Steve Krug puts it: “Recruit loosely, and grade on a curve.”
Test with students, especially those pursuing a course relating to the software’s domain. For example, if your software is aimed at lawyers, test with law students. Now you are grading higher up the curve!
By showing the results of your testing with internal users and/or students, you can make a compelling argument about the benefits of usability testing, which leads to my next tip…
Ask your Sales / Customer Success teams to help you recruit users. You will have to educate them about the advantages of usability testing. One suggestion is to carry out the testing is during a single-day site visit, and to make contextual enquiry part of the visit.
A sales team member may want to accompany you during any field visit. That’s fine, as long as you don’t intimidate the participant. Don’t allow more than three people in the room — including the participant — during a usability test.
Test a generic version of the product — since the number of tests is limited, and the findings are applicable across customers. Find other ways to validate specific customizations and configurations, for example using Google Analytics.
Usability testing for enterprise software is still not as common practice, and faces many obstacles. You will need to employ “guerilla” tactics, and get your sales people onside, in order to include this valuable UX method in your process.