User testing isn't a one-off thing. And it's not something you should necessarily do just before you release because you won't have time to make any changes. Instead, run multiple sessions with a small number of participants throughout the development cycle to give the team feedback on how well things are going. Re-test problem areas once the team has made changes to the code. But also, run some regular exploratory tasks during each test session too, just to make sure that the changes didn't introduce new issues to areas that were working well before. User-centered teams start to rely on the information from the usability test sessions to see how well they're meeting their release goals for efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction.
You can encourage your team to be user-centered by putting up a poster with these measures on the wall of the team area, and tracking changes in the key measures from test to test. Once teams see the benefits of usability testing, they typically start scheduling regular tests, either every month or every couple of iterations on agile projects. This frequency gives them enough time to make changes between test cycles, but not go so long without user feedback that they get too carried away making untested design changes.
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