What does that mean?
External users are people who are recruited from all walks of life that don’t work for the company. They are individuals who may be interested in buying your products or services.
Internal users are people who work at the company. They may not have any association with the product that you are testing, but they are familiar with it. (Ex. Accounting staff to help test a website feature for the travel industry.)
Michael points out various reasons why companies want to test internal people and one stuck out most to me:
“Really, who can beat the, um, fiscal cheapness of testing people who are already working for you anyway?”
That may be the view of the company, but it is definitely not the case. It is expensive to test internal employees and they might be more expensive to test than paying external subjects.
The companies view is simple: “We are paying these people anyway, why not just grab them out of their cubes or in the hallway and sit them down for the usability test.”
What they fail to see is these people, all be it on the clock, are working on projects and tasks that are not related to the test. Their day is interrupted by this test and the value of their time should not be measured just by what the company is paying them.
These users time is valuable to a lot of people in the company. Their time is worth a lot to the project team they are working with; they have tasks that need to be complete that others on the project are depending on. They have to stop what they are doing, go to where the test is conducted, switch their mindset to give comprehensive answers in the usability test, and then switch gears when the test is over and try to pick up where they left off prior to the test.
Now, this may be easy for some and may not have that big of an impact on this persons time or concentration; but multiply that by 10 users. Now there is a bigger impact… now you are talking about potentially losing a day’s worth of work on a project or several projects.
These costs are rarely taken into consideration; in fact, they are generally overlooked all together. Companies who feel that internal user testing is the only way to go need to take a look at the opportunity cost a bit more closely.