The Importance of User Testing

For many of us with smartphones, we’ve likely had the disappointing experience of  1. being really excited about a new app  2. downloading ...

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For many of us with smartphones, we’ve likely had the disappointing experience of  1. being really excited about a new app  2. downloading it  3. opening it up and then…. having no idea what to do next.  So disappointing. 

And what comes next? For the App developer, unfortunately, chances are that you will not open the app again, and it will eventually be deleted from your phone.  As disappointing as it is to be a user in that scenario, the real loss is for the developer. In one anticlimactic hiccup, all the investment in finding a customer and then building excitement and goodwill with the user is lost and displaced with a negative experience that will take more effort than the original investment to overcome. If only the creators of the app conducted user testing, this lose/lose scenario could have been completely avoided.

User testing evaluates how a customer uses a product versus how we think they use it. When we are sitting in an office creating an app, we may not think about what is going on around the user and what challenges are they facing outside of using the app. Testing helps discover and correct those scenarios before your users ever see it.

There are several different ways to conduct user testing. Below are some of the more common options.

Observation

This is simply watching the user to see how they interact with the product. Very little to no direction is given to the user so that you can see how they navigate through different tasks. This will help to see if the product is intuitive or if more direction is needed. 

Observation can be conducted both in-person and remotely. In-person is best because you can read body language and see their reactions in real-time. There are some helpful tools like UserTesting.com and Clicktale that allow you to conduct user tests remotely. UserTesting.com records the user’s screen and camera. You can see what they are doing on that page and watch their reactions. The missing link here is that you are not catching any reactions happening off-camera or outside of the camera frame. Clicktale tracks where the users mouse it throughout the process. This could potentially reveal something like users thinking they need to click a certain button while you intended it to be a different button or being stuck on a certain part of the screen because they are confused.

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A/B Testing

A/B Testing involves having two variants of the same thing shown randomly to users. This is a great way to test a large group of users quickly. Many statistics come out of these tests and are used to determine which method is most effective. Things like tracking time spent on a page between version A and B can determine which version is better for users. For example, if users are spending significantly more time on a form with Version B, that could signify that the form is not optimized.

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Optimizely is a great product to conduct A/B Testing as well as gather and analyze data afterward. 

Focus Groups & Surveys

Focus groups and surveys can be used to communicate with your users. You can discuss issues they have with a product and what is most concerning about an interface. Focus groups are run by a moderator and commonly consist of 6-10 users. They can be used prior to development to determine what users want from a product, as well as after development to see if the product meets those needs.

User surveys can be used in the same way. They can also be done in-person and remotely through a survey platform. When conducting surveys, ask open questions. Avoid asking leading questions like; “What do you like about this app?” This implies that the user likes the app already and you may not get insight into what issues are present. It’s also important to avoid closed questions like “Do you like this App?” that will only get you yes and no answers. Instead, ask open and neutral questions. A better way to ask the above questions would be “What do you think of this app?” You’ll get more informed answers from users and possible insight into both what is working and what can be improved. To learn how to put together an effective user survey, check out this guide on UX Collective.

Depending on when you employ it, user testing can help you create better products and ensure happier, win/win experiences for your constituencies.  

Jennifer Gnerer

Jennifer Gnerer

Jennifer Gnerer is the Head of UX Design at Mindset. She's a multi-talented UX designer whose focus is making everything she touches both simple and beautiful. You can often find Jen participating in our client's Design Thinking Workshops or perfecting their apps.

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