I was attending a meetup recently, and the presenter proudly stated that his team were not just the builders of their application, but also the users. He claimed that since they make use of their own product, this turned them into valid users, from a product design and testing perspective.

They were operating in a niche market, and so of course, they found this to be a great advantage when building their product.

In the meantime, while he was showing off the product’s interface, it was very clear to everyone (even those with just a little UX experience) that the product had many clear usability issues. The problem was that since their team had concluded that “we are the users of our product”, they didn’t yet see a need to perform a proper user-testing session with other testers. They even considered their interface to be pretty well thought-out and usable.

But it would be silly to blame them entirely: it’s a very easy trap to fall into this false belief, and many people make the same mistake. If you are not working as a UX design professional, it’s often hard to see why this is a problem at all.

This made me think: why do people still think they can be both the designers, and the users of their own product, and still consider themselves as good subjects for “testing” that product.

I realised these people confuse two distinct classes of person:

  1. the subject matter expert
  2. the typical users

Many products start off when someone is affected by a problem, and sets out to try and build a solution. At the very beginning, they are indeed, valid users. The issue is that as soon as they start to deeply consider how to design a solution to that problem, they gain more subject matter expertise, and cease to be typical users. The more subject matter expertise you gain, the less like a regular user you become.

The principles of user testing suggest that you need to test with at least 5 users in order to reveal 80%+ of the usability issues that might be present. So if you’re just testing with your own team, who are not typical users, then it’s highly unlikely that you will reveal all of these issues.

You know every detail of your product: it’s almost like your child. You have been living with it since it was just an idea–a sketch on a piece of paper. You know why you put this list here, and that button over there. Do you really believe you can be a valid, impartial and unbiased user to test the usability of your product with?

No. You are—again—not like your users!

The point is: forget this madness, and round up some real users, to discover the real UX issues that you’re missing. Testing your app with real users is never something you can avoid. In many ways, the more confident you are about how well you’ve designed your product, the more you should be testing and listening to user feedback. Otherwise you’ll be blinded by your own ego and confidence, and you’ll hurt your real users.