According to my hero Steve Krug, who wrote the classic book on how to design a “usable” website, Don’t Make Me Think, the same three things happen every time you conduct “user testing”:

1. You confirm some things you already knew.
2. You learn some new things about the way people actually use your website, and what they value about it, and 
3. You get “whacked over the head” with at least one big surprise that let’s you improve your website significantly.

These three things have happened every time I’ve conducted “user testing” on the website projects I’ve done.  But they also seem to happen in lots of other situations when I or my clients conduct customer polls.  One of the best feelings in the world is to get “whacked over the head” with a great, free insight from one of your customers about how you can solve her problems even more effectively.

PS – This is the first time I’m putting a link to in this blog that is an “affiliate” link to a product.  I’m experimenting with this practice and may continue to do it periodically, and if you object to it, I’d love to hear from you.  You should know that I’ll only do this when I strongly endorse a book or product.  

Will Marlow co-founded AlumniFidelity to help his clients reposition their fundraising to benefit from Web2.0 technology and marketing techniques. He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, Bowling Green State University, Randolph Macon College, and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge.  Email him at