You can User Test at any stage of the product development cycle from concept to post launch, to detect usability and design issues as well as potential opportunities/features for the future.
To do this, you need to get real life people to interact with your product and observe their reactions, behaviours and thoughts related to it. There’s many different types, methods and combinations that could be appropriate for the insight you wish to gain but it’s essentially about seeing what works-and perhaps more importantly–what doesn’t!
Successful usability tests require an understanding of the overall user testing process (all usability testing is user testing but not all user testing is usability testing!), and whilst we’d always recommend getting an experienced user researcher or tester to design and conduct your tests (there’s always more complexity than you think!), we understand that this isn’t always possible. In this instance we have prepared the below guide to help make sure your user testing helps, rather than hinders your process.
How to conduct user testing:
Step 1: Define your test objectives
Testing for the sake of testing will not yield useful results!
Ask yourself what you are looking to get out of the test (i.e I want to ensure the user flow is intuitive, or, I want to check that the content is valuable)... Start simple here and don’t try and test everything.
Whatever it is, just make sure you clearly have your objectives outlined, otherwise you may spend the time researching, planning and preparing for your test and the results could be less than useful.
Step 2: Pick your user testing method
Once you know the goal of your test, you can decide the best user testing methods in order for you to reach them! There are many different types of testing but I’ll outline some key ones below.
- One to one in person interviews
- Remote user testing
- Guerilla testing
- A/B testing
- Contextual enquiry
Consider factors such as time, budget and the stage your product is at in the development cycle when choosing a method of user testing. Some are best used early on, while some work better on an end or close to end product.
Step 3: Find Your Users
You know your observation goals and you know what method of testing you’re going to use– now it’s time to find your users!
When recruiting participants for your test, it is important they reflect your target end customer and it is recommended that they have no link to you/your product in order to avoid user bias in your results. Users with prior knowledge of the product can be influenced by a preconceived notion or may not speak their mind in fear of offending someone connected to them.
It is also advised that you use an experienced user researcher or moderator to plan and conduct the testing to get the most reliable results.
Step 4: The test plan scenarios
The way you word your questions, information or tasks can completely change the outcome of the test, for this reason where appropriate it is always important to follow a test script. This ensures all users get the same information and follow the same task guides. The way you ask users to complete tasks is paramount to user testing success.
Step 5: Repeat repeat repeat!
This is why your test scripts are important in user testing. As small changes in wording or instruction can change the way a user approaches a question or task. You need to repeat the same words and use the same actions for the most reliable results. You may feel silly and a bit robotic but you can cover this in your introduction section of your script. Recreating the testing environment is the only way you can be 100% certain that your results are accurate.
Step 6: Analyse!
Gather your results and… analyse them! How did the users respond? What issues were highlighted? Were any of your assumptions proved or disproved? Summarise your findings and share them with the team.
Next, you can work together to prioritise issues - did something come up again and again? Prioritise! Issues mentioned by a minority of users aren’t as important (though if they can be fixed easily, small wins!). Identify solutions and plan your next steps based on the information gathered.
The biggest piece of advice I can give to those undertaking their own product research is never rush the planning phase!
User Testing: Test, Analyse, Repeat
User research doesn’t have to be rocket science but the more information and experience you have in your team, the better your results will be! The concept is simple but a lot of work goes into planning, conducting and analysing a user test. Both before, during and after the sessions there’s a lot going on and small diversions and changes can negatively affect the results. A trained moderator knows how to avoid these pitfalls, is skilled in reading small cues you may otherwise miss and is skilled in linking the analysis into project/journey plans.
If you are planning to do it yourself, we hope this helps guide you through the user testing phase of your project, but if you want to talk to our experienced team about Elixel assisting you with it then don’t hesitate to get in touch!
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