Oakley Field Testing Hits the Dirt

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Last weekend Oakley put its newest mountain bike apparel and accessories to the test as a team of field testers explored the singletrack and slick rock around Zion National Park in southern Utah.

Field testers were assigned different Oakley apparel, eyewear, gloves and hydration packs each of the three days, during which they rode such classics as Gooseberry Mesa and the Jem trail, one of Bike Magazine’s Best Trails of 2008.

“The trip was a huge success-it was a truly comprehensive test,” says Product Manager Tony Zentil. “The testing encompassed the entire mountain bike line, as well as hydropacks and Sports Performance eyewear.”

The bi-annual MTB product test trip serves as a critical step in the development process and this year’s trip was more productive then ever thanks to Oakley R&D’s new website, oakleytesting.com.

The site allows field testers to upload their feedback immediately after testing a product. A Flash based comment component showcases multiple images of a product and allows testers to click anywhere on the product to pinpoint specific issues. Testers also rate the product’s fit, function and performance based on a comprehensive list of criteria.

Once a product is tested by multiple users, Field Testing Manager Dave Steiner summarizes the feedback, calculates average scores and presents the feedback to Oakley Design/Development. The findings are cross-referenced with fit specs from Tech Design and performance enhancement opportunities are prioritized.

“From the conception of a product to its prototypes, sales samples and final production, field testing is built into each phase,” says Steiner. “We push Design/Development every step of the way to make sure the product is performing to the highest of standards.”

Though it’s been a core value of Oakley since the company’s infancy, field testing has evolved into a highly organized, structured entity built into every product’s lifetime.

“Production timelines are short-there is a very tight window for field testing,” says Steiner. "The fact that we’re able to pull off productive trips like this and incorporate our feedback into design/development speaks volumes of our progress.

Field testers are selected not only for their riding ability, but for their specific communication skills as well.

“It’s not always about the pro athlete,” says Steiner. “Our carefully selected testers are people who would use the product, know how it should perform and are explicit with their feedback.”

A typical field test trip starts bright and early when outfits are assigned. Whether it’s biking, skiing or golfing, products are tested in their intended environment. Brainstorm sessions occur throughout the day. Immediately after testing, the crew individually uploads their feedback to oakleytesting.com. Individual interviews follow up to highlight any major product concerns. The product is washed, another testing matrix is built and it’s time to do it all over again the next day.

“You’d be hard pressed to find a company who does anything close to product testing in this capacity,” says Steiner. “With this new site, we’re able to share instant feedback, which ensures quality control and gives Oakley more time to push the envelop of design/development.”

“The new site is elevating our field testing to the next level,” says Zentil. “The forum makes feedback accessible to all the stakeholders. When you’re getting feedback from athletes, testers, sales reps…even buyers, there’s no excuse to not make the very best product out there.”