You think you can predict UX? “You’re wrong!”



Today, Danish user experience (UX) testing startup Brugertest.nu will officially change its name to Usertribe, because international expansion is just a little harder with a name like Brugertest.nu. And this Friday, they compete in the Nordic Startup Awards in the category bootstrapping – having already won the Danish heat.

Usertribe is a crowdsourced testing platform for user experience on websites, founded by Thore Fogh (picture: left) and Jonas Alexandersson. For Fogh, testing is more than a business: it’s a mission. (He found two mistakes in my e-mail signature by clicking every link in it).

Fogh sounds genuinely upset when he explains the folly of website designers who think they can “predict UX”. “Nobody can predict how a website should look,” he says emphatically.

“It’s quite easy: if you want to become a better salesman, do you just sell stuff, or do you listen, to your customers, to learn about them? Obviously the second. But online, almost no one thinks testing is important. But how else will you learn how people use your site? You’re not connected to them, you don’t see them.”

“If you’re not careful, you might forget about them, which leads to the fallacy among website designers that they’re the masters of the universe. But they’re not. That’s what Usertribe tries to remedy: we get feedback on web and mobile UX from real users, in their home setting, on their own devices.”

You can’t get info on UX from Google Analytics

“Some people rely on Google Analytics or similar programs, but it’s very hard to extract from your analytics why there’s a 70 percent dropoff on your webshop. I don’t know many people that can learn something useful about UX just from the analytics. But talking to users, you easily get 5 or 6 things you can improve. We put the why back in the analytics, by getting qualitative feedback from users: we have user experience videos and feedback forms: and we learn a lot from what they say and do.”

I ask him about things a lot of designers get wrong, but he doesn’t want to answer that question. “There are no ‘best practices’. You just have to listen to your user. Trying to design something without knowing your user is bound to fail.”

Usertribe developed a proprietary platform to test sites, which uses testers in 5 different countries, and 12 freelance usability consultants to set up the tests and report the results to the Usertribe customers. “You need a consultant to set up the UX tests, because a lot of the time, people ask the questions that they want to hear the answers to. You need an independent consultant to ask the questions that you don’t want to ask because you’re afraid of the answers.”

Usertribe is a lot cheaper than most UX tests, says Fogh. “Normally, you pay about 5500 € for a UX test – we do it for one fourth of that price. And we do it in less than half of the time. “We could make it more expensive, but we like this price point because it allows us to sell over the internet without meeting customers. And also because I simply believe in the virtues of testing. I could make it more expensive, but I just want better websites out there.”

Usertribe is Fogh’s first business venture. “I don’t consider myself a startup entrepreneur. I just met somebody that had a similar interest as me, who had a platform for testing websites that I was looking for at the time, and we took it from there. We both wanted to make UX testing more scalable, and what we have here is immensely scalable. It’s just people in different countries on a software platform, entirely crowdsourced and freelance.”

“It’s only since winning the Danish bootstrapping prize that I feel a bit part of the whole startup club,” he says. “I’m actually a bit old school, I guess. The idea that some startups get money while they’re not making money, and that they call themselves an entrepreneur – I don’t really get that. The startup scene is also a very closed milieu, I think, and they use a lot of buzzwords. My co-founder is a lot more into that then me: he founded eight or nine companies already, even though he’s 5 years younger than I am.”

“I basically enjoy winning startup awards because we have zero marketing budget, and the press helps us get our story out (laughs). My clients read that and go: that’s right, I have to call him. As a business man, I love this.”

The international expansion of Usertribe follows the same no nonsense approach. “We’re going up in Sweden, Germany, US and UK. But for now, we concentrate on Danish clients in those countries. We’re going to where the business is, and it will allow us to do more with our current business. I think it’s a healthier approach than saying: we’ll spend 4 million euros in Germany.”

He does agree on one thing with the lean startup movement: you have to fail fast. “That’s one thing I really agree with. We were running after the wrong segment for half a year, and we wasted so much time. We were trying to get to the agencies, because we thought we could help them. Until one of them told me: Thore, you have a great service, and you could save us a lot of time. Unfortunately, we are in the business of selling time to clients. I really hate that part of the agency business: you take money from people who want to do something good online. I also think that the market is changing: you can’t keep selling hours, you have to start selling effect – things that actually work.”

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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