Releasing CRäKN, Week 6: User Testing an Early Version of the App

This post is part of a blog series that follows along as we work with our client, CRäKN, to build a software-as-a-service app. First post here.

You can do great coding and design work in the office for weeks, but the real moment of truth happens during user testing. This week the team met with real-world users at two different funeral homes to try out an early, early version of CRäKN, and they talked with a test user from a third funeral home over the phone. As Gaslight developer James Smith put it, “Watching people use your software is both painful and informative.”

On Monday, the team took a mini road trip to a local funeral home on the east side of Cincinnati. This particular funeral home group has been enrolled as a subject matter expert since CRäKN started, providing sample forms and other industry expertise. At the user testing session, the design and development team demoed the new and improved inquiry feature—when someone calls the funeral home about a recent death. Then everyone roll played using the feature. CRäKN product owner Shawna Becknell acted as the caller while a funeral home staff member entered the new inquiry. A Gaslight designer and developer observed.

Overall, the feedback was good, and the funeral home is ready to use this early version to replace its paper-based system. There needs to be a few changes first, though, for the software to better match the funeral home’s workflow. “We made some priority assumptions that weren’t correct,” James says. New inquiry calls, for example, often come from a hospice or hospital instead of a family member, so the app needs additional contact fields to log this information. Another critical feature to prioritize: A single person at the funeral home doesn’t handle an inquiry from start to finish, so the software needs to facilitate these later hand-offs.

This session also helped the team stop second-guessing other parts of the app. “There weren’t any negative responses to the look and feel,” says Gaslight designer Lauren Woodrick. “It was reassuring that they didn’t struggle to get through the UI.” On the development side, James had been considering an overhaul of the contact search feature, but users didn’t have any issues at all. In fact, they found the search box and started using it without any prompting at all.

On Wednesday, the team headed to a second funeral home in northern Cincinnati, and talked to a funeral director who’s already using other software to manage calendaring and other day-to-day needs. He didn’t offer to start using the app right away, but he did talk about what features he’d want added before paying for the application.

The third and final testing session this week happened via conference call with a large funeral home in Texas. It brought up a use case the team hadn’t prioritized in this early offering: body donation. This particular funeral home is located near Texas A&M, and some people donate their bodies to the university for research purposes. It’s a process the director would like to handle within the app. Besides this addition and the ones mentioned previously, he was excited to start using the inquiry feature as soon as possible.

This testing week gave the team a backlog of work that’s now driven by customers, and some validation that things are headed in the right direction. “I feel like I’ve been on projects where we push really hard for user feedback, but we don’t get it until the wide release,” says James. “This is exciting to me because we can actually attach real value to stories we’re developing.”

In weeks 7 and 8, read about the challenges of building an enterprise calendar, making the app ready for beta users and a looming deadline.

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