Beyond User Testing: Leveraging Frontend Experience
For over a decade, I've been collaborating with web designers, and it's clear that we sometimes have differing perspectives. 'User testing' often takes center stage in decision-making, with the rich insights of frontend experience taking a backseat. But here's the thing - collaboration is pivotal. Recognizing the value that frontend developers bring is crucial for any team aiming to succeed in our fast-paced digital age.



User testing is a crucial tool for gathering feedback on a product, but it's not enough to truly understand and improve user engagement. For the past 13 years, I have been building multi-language platforms for international brands and for a wide variety of users. Even in a space that constantly changes, where users have evolving needs, it's important to also acknowledge the role that experience plays in understanding them.

Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Being a Front-End Developer gave me and all my colleagues around the world a unique perspective on user experience. We understand how small design decisions can have a big impact on the user experience, and we have a deep understanding of how users interact with products. By leveraging our experience in front-end development, we can help create products that are not only effective but also enjoyable to use, leading to increased user satisfaction and loyalty.

The limits of user testing

User testing is a critical component of product development that can help identify usability issues and gather feedback from real users. By testing products with representative users, product teams can gain valuable insights in how users interact with their interfaces and what their pain points are. Whatever you use services like User Testing, or your own user testing directly with regular users, user testing also possess some limits that can’t be overlooked.

For example, users may not always be able to articulate their needs and preferences accurately, or identify more obvious usability issues that sometimes are more subtle or hidden. User testing is also typically conducted in a controlled environment, which may not always accurately reflect real-wold usage scenarios.

What about people that don’t use technology in a daily basis?

Usually user testing is done by a certain user group or demographics and don’t include 100% of all users. From my point of view, user testing can’t be really complete without testing with people with disabilities. For people with experience in doing accessibility testing with real users, I’m sure you will agree that.

User testing can lead to success or failure

Through Internet history, user testing had lead to create successful products:

  • Slack (which I daily use) is a popular communication tool. During its development, Slack's team conducted user testing to identify usability issues and gather feedback from its target users. This feedback helped them make improvements to the platform, resulting in a product that was easier to use and more engaging for its users.
  • Dropbox is a cloud storage platform that allows users to store, share, and collaborate on files. Dropbox's team used user testing to identify pain points and improve the user experience, resulting in a product that was more intuitive and engaging for its users.
  • And a lot more…!

But user testing can also fail to uncover critical usability issues which can contribute to the failure of some projects:

  • Google Wave was a communication and collaboration platform that was introduced in 2009. User testing suggested that users would appreciate the platform's advanced features and integration with other Google products, but when it was released to the market, users found the platform confusing and difficult to use, leading to low adoption rates and eventually the discontinuation of the product in January 2018.
  • The Amazon Fire Phone was a smartphone introduced by Amazon in 2014. User testing suggested that users would appreciate the phone's unique features, such as the dynamic perspective display, but when it was released to the market, users found the phone overpriced and underwhelming, leading to poor sales and eventually the discontinuation of the product. The lack of empathy towards the users needs was also part of the reasons why it failed.
  • Twitter timeline algorithm: In 2016, Twitter also faced public outrage when they introduced an algorithm-based timeline, which did not align with users' preferences for a chronological timeline that allowed them to see real-time tweets in ascending order.

Building a successful project is not an easy task, a lot of factors can influence the success or the failure of a new product. Nowadays, users have different needs. Users switch faster to competitor then before, we have daily examples of that.

User testing is one tool in companies belt that should be used as often as possible, but shouldn’t be the only one.

Leveraging Front-End experience

Front-End Developers (FED) are not just coders. Usually seen as the ones that “just” integrate designs into HTML, CSS and JavaScript, their t-shape personalities is often times overlooked (not all FES have t-shape skills though).

A FED can play a critical role in creating engaging user experiences.

Collaboration and communication for better user engagement

As I said in my previous article about Front-End Developers, Web and UX/UI Designers collaboration, collaboration and communication is key in building a successful product.

This collaborative approach allows different perspectives to merge and create a more holistic vision of the product. As Front-End Developers, we have the unique position of working at the intersection of design and technology. We are often the ones who bring the designers' visions to life while ensuring that the product remains functional and user-friendly.

Front-end development is about more than just making things look good. It's about creating a seamless and intuitive interface that guides users through a product. Every button, every transition, every piece of interactive content is a chance to engage users and keep them invested in the product.

The Benefits of Leveraging Front-End Experience

Front-end developers have a deep understanding of user behavior, as they are responsible for creating the interactive elements that users engage with. They can use this knowledge to create more engaging user interfaces and to guide user testing to focus on areas of the product that are most likely to affect user engagement.

Beyond just implementing designs, a seasoned FED can provide insights and suggest improvements to the UX/UI designs based on their knowledge of what is technically feasible and what would create a smoother user journey. They can spot potential pitfalls in the designs that might be overlooked during user testing.

For example, a developer might notice that a particular design element could cause issues on certain devices or browsers. They might also suggest an alternative way of implementing a feature that enhances the user's experience. I have been advocating about accessibility for years now. Last year, I became CPACC certified and I continue to advocate for accessibility in my daily work. Not everyone understand what web accessibility is and how it impacts users. It takes time and effort to educate people about it.

The Future of User Engagement

As technology advances, users' expectations also rise. They demand faster, smoother, and more intuitive interfaces. User testing will always be a vital tool for gathering feedback, but to meet these evolving demands, we need to go beyond testing.

Incorporating the front-end developer's expertise into the design process and user testing can help create a product that not only meets the users' needs but also provides an engaging and satisfying experience.

We must continue to push the boundaries, experiment with new technologies, and constantly seek ways to better understand and improve user engagement. Only by doing this can we hope to create products that users will love to use.

Front-End Developers bring a valuable perspective to the product development process. Let's use it to its fullest potential to create engaging, user-friendly products. After all, the success of any product lies in the satisfaction of its users.

At the end, user engagement is not just about the single experience of a product but the entire journey. It's about creating an engaging, intuitive, and satisfying journey that users want to return to again and again. And Front-End Developers play a crucial role in crafting this journey.

Remember, user testing is a part of the journey, not the destination. We must use all the tools at our disposal, and that includes leveraging the front-end development experience to truly understand and improve user engagement.

Let's continue to build with the user in mind, always striving to enhance their journey, their experience, and ultimately, their engagement.


First published on LinkedIn

Has this been helpful to you?
You can support my work by sharing this article with others,
sponsoring me on Github or perhaps buy me a cup of coffee 😊

You Might Also Like

Check out these other posts:



Share your thoughts! If you don't have a Github account, you can tweet it!