User testing isn't as hard as you think

Your brand overlooks the importance of user testing at its peril.

It might seem overly burdensome or time consuming, especially when your internal team is happy with the app, website or experience that is being designed.

However, this sort of assumption is dangerous because it is (usually) not your team that will be the end users. Amongst the many factors that will affect the success of your project, your personal thumbs up matters little in comparison to the reaction it receives from users.

This is why user testing is so important. It is the best way to understand how your customers are interacting with your product or service. Analytics can provide great insight into where frictions exist but nothing compares with the ability to observe real human interaction. Observation and conversation during user testing provide clarity, context and confirmation.

User testing isn’t easy

However, there’s no denying that some aspects of user testing aren’t straightforward and this is often why companies do not bother with it.

Recruitment of users is one example. There can be a lot of legwork involved in finding the right people to test your product and the right time and place for them to do so. However, with a flexible attitude and an understanding of which approach suits your priorities and budgets, it is far from an impossible task.

The three most important things to consider with recruitment are sample size, location and incentives.

As user testing is a qualitative research method used to uncover behavioural insights, sample sizes can be quite small. We suggest between 5 and 15 people for testing a digital UI.

Locations matter because they will play a big part in the cost of user testing. You need to consider whether your user base is geographically spread out and how important face—to—face or remote testing is when you decide on where it should take place.

Finally, in terms of incentives, the level required will depend on the seniority of your target audience and the complexity of your requirements. It may also depend on how flexible you can be with fitting into your audience’s schedules.

As mentioned, a number of different approaches are available, depending on your budget and flexibility.

Guerilla testing

This approach involves taking to the streets and getting the user journey in front of people. A pair of designers will take the prototype on a device (or paper) and grab any passers by who can spare a few moments.

This approach is best suited to quick decision making or validation. It’s good for testing simple UX patterns and UI hierarchy rather than messaging or complex flows, due to the lack of context for the participant.

Guerilla testing is the right choice if you have a small budget and tight deadlines. However, you must remember that you’re unlikely to find your perfect target user and might not be able to record in depth research, as participants have limited time and designers can only transport what they can hold.

Remote testing

This approach involves video conferencing that records the screen cursor as well as the participant audio. A pair of designers will follow a test script with the user, asking them to conduct tasks and discussing their actions. The script can include interview questions to build context around the brand perception, as well as pure UX learnings.

Remote testing is easy for users to take part in, so brands can access participants from around the world without paying big incentives. Plus, sessions can be recorded for future reference and can also include tailored question and answer sessions.

A sample group of roughly 12 participants, interacting with two designers over roughly two days is a good rule of thumb to work to. However, if cost is a concern, is an online service that can be used.

Face—to—face testing

This approach follows the same format as remote testing but has the added benefit of richer interaction and insight that comes from conversation in person. While recording of screen cursor and participant audio are still important evidence, the ability to read body language and facial expressions makes for an altogether richer understanding of users’ reactions.

Ideally, face—to—face testing should take place in a specially designed user testing lab. These venues include observation rooms that allow multiple individuals to watch and steer the conversation. Professional recording equipment may also be available to record specific reactions and behaviours, such as eye tracking.

Finally, it’s important to remember that different approaches can be utilised at different points in the design process and are not mutually exclusive.

At Maido, we encourage clients to test with users in order to validate early design decisions or optimise existing features. Whichever approach you choose and whenever you choose to use it, the most important points to keep in mind are working with your target audience, testing across multiple devices and blending any insights with analytics data.