Test Pages in the Wild

I recently listened to episode 10 of The Big Web Show titled "Less Is Always an Option". In the episode Jeffrey Zeldman and Dan Benjamin interviewed Jason Fried, CEO and co-founder of 37signals.

One thing that Jason discussed was his experience with getting feedback on web projects. He said "Until someone is really using something for real on something that needs to get done right now, they don't really put it through its true paces. The thing that I think is missing with a lot of user testing is reality."

As I spend more time developing for the Web, I tend to agree with Jason's viewpoint. There is value in testing a website, web-based application, etc. during the development stage. For example, they may notice typos or that you don't provide a way for visitors to contact you with website questions. But the feedback quality tends to improve once the website or application is out there and being used. At this point visitors are using the product with their personal goals in mind.

If given the option, I prefer to be responsible for using the more intricate applications in the early stages. For example, I developed a tool for managing a membership database. Since I'm in charge of processing new membership requests and keeping the database updated, I've been able to experience first-hand what works well in the program and what needs to be streamlined. I can then make any necessary teaks before turning the keys over to someone else.

Feedback

How do you obtain feedback on a website or web-based application? I would also be interested in hearing your feedback stories. For example, did you launch a product only to find out that a crucial piece of information was missing?

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