In the 1980s, a professor in Japan, Noriaki Kano, was approached by the automotive industry. Carmakers like Toyota were revolutionizing the way cars were made—and the car business managed—by focusing on the creation of structured quality improvement processes. But automakers needed a method for prioritizing new features—and Kano’s research into customer satisfaction offered a compelling strategy. The result of the collaboration was the Kano Model, a method for assessing the value and impact of specific features that is still common in product development.
The usefulness of the model for product development has been tested repeatedly across many industries and verticals—and it can help guide your prioritization efforts for website testing and optimization, too. Though there is significant depth to the model, it can be simplified to three classifications:
Basic expectations: These features include everything that will frustrate users if it doesn’t work. When these site features are present and working properly, they aren’t typically noticed. An example might be a shopping cart that drops items when the page is refreshed, a search feature that doesn’t return useful results, or an error message that doesn’t clearly offer an explanation or solution.
Implication for testing: Obviously, meeting basic expectations is critical. Ideally, all basic expectations are met, but if not, they should be prioritized. Try analyzing user path reports and focus on pages that have the highest drop-offs. Assess these pages for obvious problems that would stop a user from completing tasks or goals, and then test several possible solutions.
Performance payoffs: These features add new functionality to the website and generate a proportional increase in user satisfaction. This linear relationship describes the territory in which most companies compete with one another. Converting a site to a responsive design is one example of a performance payoff.
Implication for testing: Constantly upgrading the experience and functionality of a website is essential for maintaining performance in competitive industries. After basic expectations, major improvements should be tested to ensure they are, in fact, performance payoffs and not simply trends that help some users while upsetting others.
Excitement generators: The type of change that generates the most buzz is the addition of a delightful, unexpected feature that is still useful. These improvements are rarely prioritized, but can represent a source of innovation and create a compelling differentiator from competitors. An example of an excitement generator might be the first introduction of live chat on a product page or free overnight shipping.
Implication for testing: Introducing a feature intended to excite users can be risky—both in terms of cost to the business and unpredictable reactions from customers. And while it may be difficult to prioritize these tests above the previous two categories, releasing them into a controlled environment minimizes risk and encourages creative, innovative thinking.
Prioritizing test ideas can be difficult. By using the Kano Model, it’s possible to identify the goal of each test, place them in an order of importance, and generate new ideas, too.