Online Community as an Insight Tool for Usability Testing and Product Innovation

So you have an online community, now what?

Natalie Dunbar, Online Community Manager, AT&T Interactive, discussed using your online community as a tool for usability testing using the new as an example. is a good example of using a closed community for product testing. In addition, the community fosters continued engagement and 39% of participants indicated they referred a friend to for their local search needs after becoming a member.

Occasionally rewards such as a gift-card giveaway would be used for participation, but generally a “Featured Member” feature is the only reward. Users were willing to help with usability testing, and in fact shared positive sentiment just for being asked. Natalie added “People are happy just to know that their opinion made a difference.”

Some key take-aways learned from the development:

  • If you ask, users will answer
  • Community can help shape the product development experience
  • Community can help build brand advocacy from the inside out into the marketplace
  • “Test early and test often.” The earlier the community is involved in the product research process, the better the results and takeaways for product innovation and development.
  • Share findings: coordinate usability research efforts with marketing research and share findings at both ends of the development cycle.

By using the usability community and usability lab, was able to learn from their users and integrate services such as for users who visit looking to make restaurant reservations.

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