The Easy Way to Successful User Testing
Let's face it, when you hear the words “User Testing,” you think of some sort of “lab test” that looks incredibly intimidating and difficult to execute. Maybe you are creating a website or an application and think that you don't have the capacity or even the resources to execute something that complex. Or maybe you are working under a lot of pressure and crazy deadlines and feel like you simply don't have the time to do a usability test. However, the reality is that user testing can, in fact, be simple and easy to do. Of course, it will require a degree of investment, but it will be worth it in the long run. Below I will show you the things you need to know to start your journey in user testing.
The importance of Usability Testing
User testing is essential because it clearly illustrates, in real-time, how users interact with your product. It can reveal a lot of issues before reaching the final version of the product when, at this point, any changes can turn out to be very costly and time-consuming. This means that, with user testing, you will be able to save money in any later design and development costs. User Testing allows you to spend your time more effectively by focusing on stuff that, in fact, needs work.
What do you really need?
There is a high chance that you might not have the budget to run one of those complex usability tests, and that's understandable. It is important to keep in mind that the equipment you use doesn't have to be overly complicated when talking about resources. They are multiple free or cheap tools ready to help to wireframe and prototype your product, as well as to assist you during the actual test. It can really be done anywhere, at any time, in person or online, as long as you have a laptop and maybe a good Internet connection. Again, the equipment you use doesn't have to be overly complicated. The important thing is that you are running a usability test!
Choose the right prototyping tool
If this is your first usability test, maybe keep the prototype short and simple. There's no need to complicate the process with an over-designed prototype. It doesn't need to be the most perfect prototype ever made. I understand that it's difficult for a designer to show your work while it's still in the “sketch phase.” But the prototype really only needs to show its primary purpose and main functions. The usability test will then help you to see if the design assumptions you made were correct. The goal here is to gather as much feedback as soon as possible. For this job, we use Sketch.
Find your target audience
The next step is to understand your audience and recruit people in that group to user test for it. There's no point in spending a considerable amount of time on a usability test to test it on the wrong target. Spend some time finding the right kind of people for your test. Make sure the people you recruit relate to the problem you are trying to solve. I think it goes without saying that you should stay away from the people that could somehow be close to the project as they would not probably give the most honest feedback.
When you made your selection and are ready to start the test, it's important to inform the participants that you are not testing them. You are testing the software. People are generally pretty uncomfortable when being tested. Keep it clear that there are no wrong answers. They should be sincere and open about how they feel and should not be afraid to point out your product's flaws and errors. In a way, it is essential if they do so because it once again shows the importance of user testing.
Getting ready to test
Before the test itself, you should spend some time creating a plan around the goals you want to achieve. Think about what exactly you want to test, like, for example, which features may or may not work. Around this plan, create a script with a series of questions and tasks to give to the users to test your product. Keep in mind the way to ask the participants to do things has an enormous impact on your tests' outcome. Remember, your script should not be formed as a bunch of instructions for the user to follow. Try to put yourself in the mind of the regular user. You want to match their mindset, and the reality is that, in the real world, no one is standing over their shoulder, telling them what to do. Your goal is to see how they react to the task; helping them out in any way defeats that purpose.
How to analyze Usability Test Results
After testing on a group of subjects, it's time to see the results. As previously stated, User Testing can reveal an unbelievable amount of details about the way users interact with your product. Be critical when reading the results; see what differs within the users and what stays the same. Identify if users were able to complete the tasks successfully and how efficiently they were in doing so. Evaluate what works and what didn´t and pinpoint some design elements that need to be changed. It's also important to see if the user felt any type of enjoyment when testing the product and analyze how you can increase it. You will end up with a bunch of objective and subjective findings that provide you valuable feedback and are going to help you shape and improve your design and a better experience.
In the end, testing is a critical part of the design process, and you really shouldn't avoid it. You want to create the best product for your audience, and so you need to know what your audience thinks about it. Your tests don't need to be run in laboratory conditions. The important thing is that you are testing your product - and a test is better than no test, no matter how informal. You will learn from this process, and you shouldn´t be afraid to do more than one over time.
It's up to you now to choose how to execute it and to adapt this formula to your needs. Be smart about it, do your research, run it well, and it will bring you so much value in the long run. In the end, it's just about getting feedback to create a better product.