I ask my test team to be proxy users. They can and do report issues over, above, outside, around, across and regardless of any spec, convention or any other consideration if they feel that customers will find it an issue. To help to keep the team in step with customer thinking, all QA engineers are watchers on support traffic. (This has other benefits too, but that’s for another time.)

When you’re doing this, especially in exploratory work, you have to be careful not to confuse your user with your self. You just won’t have a single model user and, even if you did, the chances of it or any particular user having your own set of behaviours and prejudices is small (although obviously your behaviours and prejudices are the optimal set of behaviours and prejudices to have).

So, if you’re navigating the product and you like to use short cuts, don’t just use short cuts. Take the slow route with mouse clicks too because some of your users will. Hover over all the components you usually ignore. Perhaps the infotips or tooltips are wrong. When was the last time you looked, I mean actually read?  How about all those features that have been in the product so long you barely remember what they do? Your new users don’t know they’re deprecated so dust them off. Delete all your product preferences. Yes, especially the ones that make it pleasant to use.  Take the time and effort to put yourself in a different frame of mind.

When you’re testing you’re there for the user, but the user isn’t you.
Image licensed by GFDL