Tuesday, December 02, 2008

How to Con People

I have needed to do user testing for some time now on the software I was writing at work and all I can say is lawyers are stupid and annoying. I really can’t go into it further than that. For anyone not familiar with user testing it involves me sitting down with the user with a computer (or maybe paper prototypes) and asking them how they would complete certain actions, what they think, how they are confused, and so on. Basically the goal is to see how where and how confusing the software is to use. Although it seemed like I was supposed to be testing the software since this is my first major user testing where I did everything myself it seemed more like I was instead doing psychology tests on the users to get any answers out of them. While I knew everything I was doing was legitimate, convincing strangers of that is a whole other matter.
Of course like anyone, I had to pay the users for their work. The normal way is just to give them cash but my company wanted to cut them a check, and to do that they had t deal with tax issues, and that meant getting their social security number. If I introduced it as “I’m sorry, I need your SS# for tax reasons” they would not give it to me no matter what I said or did after that. However if I introduced it as “I’m sure the first thing you care about is getting paid” and just handed them the form to fill out they would ask about the SS# but fill it when when I told them it was for tax reasons. Given the goal of money upfront people will hand over personal info, stating something defensive up front and people will not let their guard down.
There was three different forms they had to sign. Since I was testing Senior Citizens for with the software, all the documents I had made up were in large text. Even though they were longer people read them. The ones the lawyers had made up were smaller and harder to read. People would sign them without a second thought. Also, the order of the documents made a difference. Once trust is established later documents were signed without reading. So just think of that the next time you go into a car dealer. All the trust-worthy things that look good will be large and in the first few documents being signed. Things for stuff like under-coatings will be on papers with fine print presented after you are tired of reading legal papers.
One of the funny things I ran into was scheduling around doctors appointments. Everyone I tested seemed to have a doctor appointment that week. I can only guess what the life of senior citizens is like on a weekly basis. But, the good news is that everyone liked it. Of course hearing over and over from people things they don’t like about something you spent so long is hard so I am glad I did not get that much of that.

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