User testing, or usability testing, is a research technique that gives you the opportunity to see how customers actually engage with your website, mobile app or other service.
Customers have more power and more choice than ever before, and their expectations are through the roof. And with mobile apps, you have mere seconds to create an impression.
So being in tune with your customers’ needs, expectations and behaviours is more important than ever to managing brand perception and to the success of your products and services.
What can user research tell us?
Find out how users perceive your brand, product or service and how satisfied they are with their experience.
Learn if participants are able to complete tasks successfully and any areas of frustration.
Find out what features they find the most valuable.
Identify changes required to improve performance.
Reveal gaps in service offerings and opportunities for innovation.
When should we test?
To be customer centric you need to test early and test often. We encourage our clients to test throughout the product development lifecycle, beginning in the early stages of defining requirements.
Insights from early stage research support decision-making around feature set priorities and identify what will deliver the most value to customers.
Early testing can be lean and mean, done in-house with staff, family, or friends, using mock-ups, paper prototypes, or interactive wireframes.
As the product develops, more structured testing with actual target audience participants provides more robust insights and recommendations to refine workflows, layouts and interactions.
How do I test?
There are several approaches to testing and your choice will depend on what you are testing, your objective, the stage you are at in development and the number of audience groups you want to test.
Informal testing, sometimes called ‘quick-and-dirty’ or ‘in-the-hallway’ testing is a great way to validate a design that’s in progress. This can be as simple as getting a few co-workers or friends to look at a mobile app prototype and asking them what they think it does, who it’s for and what they would do first.
Or it could be looking at aspects of an existing website or app such as navigation, instructional text and/or whether core tasks can be easily accomplished. By engaging 6 participants, you can typically catch most of the obvious user issues.
Getting started – There are 3 key considerations for any user test:
Purpose: Be clear on what you want to test and what you are going to do with the outcomes.
Planning: Understand the materials you are working with and create a test script that documents the approach you’ll take to gain the information you need. Do a few test runs to make sure everything is ready to put in front of users.
Participants: Different audience segments perceive things differently. Who will you recruit? Are there multiple audience groups? What do you expect from them?
A word of caution about bias
It’s easy to unwittingly bring bias into the test context. Bias has a nasty habit of influencing results and invalidating the findings.
It’s important to have an observer, who can take notes and help interpret findings. Formal studies should be recorded to refer back to when documenting findings. By doing a test plan or test script you can be aware of the language you use so as not to lead users. You also need to know who your users are and be mindful of the limitation of using the quick-and-dirty method where your participants may not fit your audience profile.
When to bring in research experts
Informal testing can and should be done by designers and developers where expert researchers are not available or there is minimal budget for research. However, for most projects, particularly large, more complex projects, we recommend engaging research experts to support the project team as they will be able to manage all aspects of the test and provide robust results that will withstand stakeholder scrutiny.
At Niiu Digital, we have a solid team of experienced researchers and we’d love to hear from you.