A Game of Mousetrap

Did you ever play the game of Mousetrap growing up? Most people would say yes, that sometime growing up they owned the game or played with a friend. But can anyone say that they actually ever played the game of Mousetrap? I for sure never did, as my sister and I would spend the time setting up the whole trap, run it through a few times, then throw everything back in the box to “play” again next time.

MouseTrapI think there were actually mice with cheese triangles, that you somehow had to earn, and spend on components to the trap, and work towards assembling, but I never once read the rules or was told how to play correctly. I only wanted to do one thing, set up and catch mice.

This makes me think about how our users will interact with our products. We spend hours designing and developing so that our users have the greatest and easiest experience with our product, only to find out that they may not use it as we have intended. Sometimes we find out that our users will do nothing as we expected, or as we designed, and then we either get to decide to build it out better for them, or let them continue doing their workflow.

Software isn’t the only area of product like this. The game of Mousetrap is one example of hundreds, that were not used as originally designed or developed. Play-Doh, bubble wrap, even Coca-Cola are some products that were originally developed for a certain purpose and were later re-branded for use, due to the market’s need or how they ended up using the product.

As testers of products, we are required to test as the business asks, and then some. We are told to put the product through rigorous testing, just so that it can be used without errors, but what we can’t always test is how the users will actually end up using our product. At Zywave, we have a team of UX Designers, who spend hours studying the market and running usability tests with our customers, to try to figure out how they’ll interact with some of our new development. They do a great job at getting us quality information, but that is still a subset of users.

I wasn’t around in the creation process of Mousetrap to know, but I’m certain when they created the game, their intent was not for the majority of users to only setup and catch mice. They probably intended for use in one way much like we intend our users to use our products in a certain way. It’s just a reminder that we can never be certain of how our users will use our products, so we just have to test a little more to make sure the bugs are few and far between.

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