Guessing is a part of life—and it’s necessary. Without it, we’d never get anything done. And college exams would be excruciating.
You feel great when your guess is right. You narrow down the possibilities, do some research, infer based on your assumptions, and voila: the perfect guess (or, you just fill out the “C” bubble on a multiple choice exam!).
But for some things in life, you should minimize guesswork as much as possible. When it comes to your business—and, even more specifically, what your customers want—you shouldn’t depend on guesswork. And luckily, you don’t have to.
This is the beauty of user testing. Well-timed user testing helps you get the product right early, so you can move on faster and build something that people actually want—instead of what you guess they want.
Why Should You Test?
Testing helps you identify real issues with your application—navigation and presentation errors, control usage problems, unnecessary features, etc. It gives you the information you need to remove stumbling blocks from the user’s path through the application.
Testing helps you create better products, provides deeper insights, and gets your product to market more quickly. And since you identify issues during the building stages, you can make adjustments based on new insights of user needs—so you don’t end up with a product that nobody wants, and you save time and money.
When Should You Test?
You should test at each stage of the project. Do as much testing as you can—each test gets you closer to matching your product with your user’s needs. The payoff with user testing is relative to time spent—and you certainly don’t want to skip this aspect of your product.
2 Parts of User Testing
There are 2 parts of user testing, and both are critical to your application’s success: Usability Testing and Concept Testing.
Usability Testing measures how well people can use the product or service by testing it with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks, usually while being observed by a researcher, to see where they encounter problems and experience confusion.
Here are some questions you should aim to answer through your observations:
- Navigation: Can users move through the application easily?
- Product Information: What information do they have trouble finding? What info do they want to see?
- Checkout: Is it easy to use and easy to pay? Are there any issues filling out forms?
Concept Testing evaluates consumer response to a product idea to test the appeal and potential success of a new product or service before it is launched. Concept Testing helps you develop your original idea further, estimate the market potential, identify the value of product features, identify your target customer segment, and generate an estimate of sales.
Concept Testing sample questions:
- Would you be interested in such a product?
- How much do you like the product?
- What do you think is the best thing about the product? The worst thing?
- If the product was already available to purchase for _____, would you be interested in this price?
- How much do you think you should pay for it? Why?
- What would you change about the product?
User testing should be deployed throughout project development—from the initial design to the final sprint. This gives you time to handle issues during the design and development process.
Before You Test
Before you can test the product with users, you need something tangible to test with. But you don’t want to waste time and effort building something that, in the end, users don’t need, understand, or want. So, how can you test the product without wasting your coders’ time? The solution is prototyping.
A prototype is a rough working model of your product that gives people (and yourself) a better idea of its potential, features, functionality, size, color, and more. With prototyping, you can see and test your website or product before you spend long hours coding and programming. The prototyping phase usually focuses on:
- Interface Element Design
- Logical Flow
Your prototype can be something extremely simple (the classic rough sketch on an index card!), or a bit more interactive.
Here are some popular programs to help you build a prototype:
- Axure: Price: www.axure.com
- Invisionapp: invisionapp.com
- AppSketcher: www.appsketcher.com
- Keynotopia: www.keynotopia.com
- SketchFlow: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/expression/ee215229.aspx
Once you have (at least) your prototype ready, you can plan your testing.
Types of User Testing
- Guerilla Usability Testing. This is the most informal type of testing. As the name implies, guerrilla testing can be done by approaching potential testers with a laptop in a safe environment, like a coffee shop. Simply have users talk aloud as they perform tasks with the product.
- Lab Usability Testing. Unlike guerrilla usability testing, lab usability testing is performed in a controlled environment. People whose characteristics match those of the target users are asked to perform tasks with your product or prototype.
- Remote Usability Testing. The advantage of remote testing is that you can conduct tests without being in the same physical location as the test participant—it’s convenient, especially if the people you need to test are spread out across the country or globe, or if you need quick results. UserTesting.com is a great tool for remote testing.
- A/B Usability Testing. An A/B test involves testing two versions of a web page or product—with live traffic. The A version is the control, and the B version is the variation. This tests allows you to measure the effect each version has on your conversion rate. It’s easier to set up an A/B test than you might think. With tools like Optimizely, you can set up the test quickly and get results.
- Surveys. Surveys are a quick way to get feedback from a large group of people. You can create a quick survey with services like SurveyMonkey. Aim to survey at least 14 people who don’t have a personal interest in your app. Your survey should be a mix of yes/no questions, and also give users a chance to provide additional feedback.
Perform at least one of these usability tests to make sure your product meets users’ needs.
When it comes to your next rockstar product, eliminate as much of the guesswork as possible with user testing. Use the techniques and methods above to get the best feedback from potential users. With every test, you gain more insight into your users’ wants and needs—so you can tweak your product along the way. When you launch, you’ll give it the best chance to be irresistible to users—because it’ll solve their real problems.
Have you started user testing yet? Do you plan on using any of these techniques? Have you already had success with user testing? Tweet us or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
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