User Testing: A Comprehensive Guide
User testing is becoming more and more crucial for product teams, who are aiming at developing well and truly user-focused products. So, the key goal of any user testing is to provide data to the design process from the point of the end-user.
In our article, we will talk about the concept of user testing and formulate four methods of effective usability testing along with according recommendations when you should use these methods.
What is user testing?
User testing is a certain technique of valuation of a product by testing it through users. Although we use “user testing”, in reality, we mean “testing of usability” because the aim of any testing is to make sure that the target audience will be able to use a product without having issues.
Why do we need user testing?
As a rule, the success of your product is assessed by analysis of whether your users can use it. Moreover, the more you decide to invest time and money in user testing, the more chances that you launch a usable product. For instance, Aarron Walter has a certain hierarchy of their user needs. This hierarchy clearly shows that their users wish to have reliable, functional, pleasurable, and usable products. Thus, we decided to make a list of four reasons why user tests can be of great help for your business and product.
- Experts can not physically know everything
However much expert experience and knowledge you may have, you still can not know everything. Even more, you can not always assess situations perfectly. The same lesson learn many experts in many years of their practice and you should learn too.
- Facts are more valuable than opinions
Facts can be used to fully destroy some doubtful opinions. There are a lot of cases when clients can completely ignore expert’s advice with only one phrase “ yeah you are right, however, that is only your personal opinion, isn’t it?”. Thus, user tests provide real facts. And these facts can shut opinions at any time of the day.
- Overlooking your clients is harder
Or for one thing, ignoring data gathered from your clients is harder than ignoring the advice of experts. If you see that 4 out of 5 people have big issues with using with a certain feature in your product, you should be blind not to realize that you have to fix this issue. Moreover, user testing can be good in creating empathy with the users. If they have problems while they are on your websites, we can assure it is very sad to watch. You should be part of it.
- Convincing and long-lasting proof
Some videos that can show your potential and current customers having issues with your business website, swearing at your interface? This is a great power. Such kind of video can clearly shut up even the most ego-tripping, thick-skulled, and know-it-all directors and clients during your board meetings.
Moreover, you can re-use these recordings at any step of your project. Every time the same old discussion comes up about your product usability, you just can show that recording with the phrase: “ This video of user testing is an excellent reminder of what might happen if we do this…”. Continue to do so until they believe you.
How do we do user testing?
As specialists have not created hard and fast rules on how to work with user testing, we can offer you some main recommendations that perfectly suit the topic. The most critical rule of user testing is quite simple – test as early as possible, and test frequently. So, the earlier you decide to test, the easier for you it is to make adjustments. As a result, you will have a bigger impact on the eventual quality of your product. Thus, try to take into consideration the following crucial rules:
- Do not wait until your product is fully formed
You can always test half-functional prototypes (even of low-quality ones) and design mock-ups as long as you can freely explain to test members what they need to do.
- Be consistent on your goals
Before you start your user testing, you have to ask yourself what do you need from this test and why exactly. Ensure you will only those questions to participants that will help you discover important insights about your product.
- Do testing with real users
Many product teams make use of a certain technique that is called dogfooding to test products. Of course, these team members use a product every day just like their targeted users. This technique can be useful for the product, however, it can not become a full replacement for real user testing. A crucial rule of user testing reminds us that your team is not your users. Thus, test your product not only within your family, friends, teams but also with real and unbiased users.
- Think of quality and not about quantity
Many teams forget about user testing mainly because they think that this testing will be for sure cost- and time-consuming. In fact, most of the time, there is no need to involve a lot of people for the session. According to research from NNGroup, testing a group of five users will show more than 80% of usability issues. Moreover, you can make use of techniques like guerilla testing when you have a working prototype, go out of the office, find strangers who can be the target audience, and start your testing.
- No need to test everything at once
It just not possible to do something like that. As an alternative, concentrate on a certain area of the product and try to find issues that your users might have. A good design process should always be flexible. Abide a cycle of build, measure, and learn. Find out and fix the most burning issues in your product, collect feedback, and change accordingly.
- Engage the full product team in your testing process
Ask all team members to take part in user testing so that they will exactly see how users interact with the product and design. Such an opportunity will help your team to get a clear picture of usability issues and develop certain empathy towards their users. If all team members can not join these sessions, you can record a video of user testing and share it among the team.
Top four methods of user testing
Guerilla testing is one of the easiest forms of usability testing. If UX professional wants to run guerrilla testing, he or she organizes a prototype and find certain public space ( like a cafe or park) and ask different people to assess the prototype. As a rule, test participants go through a short usability test and then receive some small gifts (like dessert or coffee). Such a test can provide you real user feedback.
When you should use it:
Such type of testing can be a perfect variant for the first stages of product development. You can use it when you already have a core concise representation of the idea (for example, it can be a low-quality prototype of your website or mobile app) and want to know whether you have made the right decisions for your product.
Remote usability testing without moderator
Participants of the test are asked to fulfill a task in comfortable for them environments, using their own devices with no moderator. Such type of user testing is relatively cheap and can be automated with tools like Userzoom or Usertesting.
When you should use it:
Such kind of user testing is suitable when you need a lot of users to validate your hypothesis. For instance, you need to make sure that at least 90% of users will get a clear picture of how to make an order on your e-commerce website. Thus remote usability testing without moderate will provide you not only possible to validate your hypothesis but also to find out certain interaction patterns.
Contextual inquiry is another type of user testing where your users are asked a specific set of questions about your product and only then supervised while they a product in their environment. Contextual inquiry is an observation or interview method that helps your product team to get data about the user experience from your users and not some random people.
When you should use it:
Such type of user testing is usually used for situations when you need detailed data about user preferences and habits. This technique is especially suitable for cases when your product team wants to obtain this data at the beginning of design development because this will help them to design specifically customized experience.
Lab user testing
Lab user testing is a testing that is held in certain laboratories or environments and, as a rule, managed by UX researchers who take the role of moderators. Lab usability testing may be too complex. While performing testing, moderators may ask users to do a set of tasks, where they should track multiple qualitative data and do an interview where they gather personal opinions.
When you should use it:
Lab user testing is the most effective when you need to gather a wide range of information on how your real users interact with the website of mobile app and what problems they usually have. Among all of the techniques, this one is the most expensive one and it is usually conducted when you are sure in your product or concept.
These days many designers see design as some one-dimensional process that begins with user research, has a certain stage of prototyping, and then goes testing. However, years of practice show that design is an iterative process. Often happens that designers get feedback that changes the solution. Thus, the earlier these designers get their feedback, the easier it will be to perfect the design. That is why you should gather user feedback at the very beginning of UX design development.