At a recent presentation I was pleasantly surprised to hear our client comment on the value of conducting user testing research. It was in reference to a specific issue that we had identified occurring in the purchase process of an e-commerce prototype.
In our user tests, participants were presented with a series of discrete modules that they had to complete in a sequential order. Some participants could not progress from one particular module to another. They had unknowingly entered incorrect information into one or more of the fields associated with this module. However, they could not see the error message because it was displayed further up the page, which was not visible to them. We observed that they persisted in clicking the next button rather than scrolling up, and noted that they would have abandoned the purchase at that point.
Our recommendation was simple: Error messages should be displayed on screen so that users do not have to scroll above the page fold to find it. For the client, this highlighted the importance of conducting user research. By doing so, we had picked up a seemingly minor issue, overlooked at the design stage, that could significantly impact on whether or not a user could successfully complete their online purchase process.