User testing stands as an indispensable key to unlocking the secrets of your product’s success. It’s the flashlight that reveals whether your creations truly resonate with your customers before they hit the market. Think of it as your superpower, capable of saving you precious time, financial resources, and countless headaches.
With user testing, you’ll not only meet customer expectations but exceed them, crafting products that are tailor-made for your target audience.
In this guide, we’re about to embark on a thrilling journey. We’ll dive deep into the world of user testing, uncover a treasure trove of methods for evaluating your products, and equip you with strategies to seamlessly integrate user testing within your organization.
If you’re looking to validate your product idea, we’d recommend checking out our complete guide here.
What is User Testing?
User testing entails enlisting end users and customers to assess and appraise a product, feature, or prototype. These test participants engage with the product, pinpointing both areas of dissatisfaction and strengths, enabling businesses to refine the user experience prior to its market introduction.
Why is User Testing Important?
User testing offers a straightforward means of gaining insight into your customers’ perspectives, allowing you to observe, listen, and evaluate their interactions with your design. While your employees, designers, and those involved in product creation may find it easy to use, your intended customers might not share the same experience.
User testing reveals where your product falls short for your target audience, highlighting areas of confusion or frustration. Since this testing occurs prior to product release, you can use this information to refine the product until you’ve crafted a user experience (UX) that you’re proud to endorse.
In this context, user testing provides several valuable benefits for your business:
- Cost Savings in Production: User testing delivers crucial insights at the early stages of product development, preventing substantial investments based on untested assumptions that could ultimately prove incorrect. It can be the difference between launching a product that users truly want and need or proceeding with an unverified concept.
- Ensuring Product Suitability: As a product owner, your passion for your creation is essential. However, through user testing, you can bolster the concept’s strength, uncover more persuasive marketing messaging, and even unearth new use cases and benefits by incorporating feedback from impartial end-users.
- Identifying Usability Issues Early: While product sales generate revenue, building brand equity is a more challenging yet enduring achievement. Usability problems with your offerings can result in negative user experiences, eroding customer loyalty and potentially creating detractors of your brand. Comprehensive usability testing helps you detect and address these issues before they harm your brand.
- Evaluating Change or Upgrades: Collecting user feedback after implementing changes or upgrades allows you to gauge their success. It also aids in assessing return on investment (ROI), particularly when you gather user feedback over time and compare it with other performance indicators like sales, social rankings, and Net Promoter Score (NPS).
- Capturing Emotional Responses: Feedback from actual users inherently carries emotional elements. User testing provides insight into the sentiments your product or service evokes in its users, helping you assess whether these emotions align with your brand values and marketing strategies.
Incorporating user testing into your product development process can be a pivotal step in crafting user-centred, successful, and emotionally resonant offerings.
What Metrics Can I Use For User Testing?
When evaluating how users respond to your product, you have a wide array of metrics at your disposal. In this section, we will guide you through the six most frequently employed tests, providing a solid foundation to begin your assessment.
Task completion occurs when a test subject signifies that they have successfully finished the test or achieved its ultimate objective.
Time On Task
Time on task represents the duration it takes for your test subject to finalise the assigned test.
This metric reflects the percentage of test participants who can successfully complete the test, regardless of whether they encountered errors during the process.
Critical errors impede your test subjects from successfully completing the test.
Non-critical errors are errors made by the test subject that do not significantly hinder their overall ability to successfully complete the test. These errors usually indicate that a specific aspect of your product, prototype, or feature led the test subject to be less efficient at a certain point in the process.
These encompass the perspectives of your test subjects, including their preferences, criticisms, suggestions, personal satisfaction levels upon test completion, and their overall enjoyment while using your product.
Once you have obtained your results and correlated them with the aforementioned metrics, you can delve into a thorough analysis, seeking out recurring patterns and identifying emerging trends among your participants.
Additionally, it’s advisable to assess the severity of the problems encountered during your tests. This evaluation aids in determining the urgency of addressing specific issues and prioritizing them, particularly when multiple issues arise. You can employ the following scale for this purpose:
From this point, you can consolidate your findings and recommendations, transforming them into actionable insights to enhance your product. Subsequently, you should organize these discoveries to share with your team members, designers, and all those involved in the product’s creation and development.
7 User Testing Methods
To jumpstart your product testing, we’ve assembled a list of seven frequently used user testing methods.
Surveys serve as an excellent method for user testing when seeking precise, quantitative data from your customers regarding your product. For instance, you can request them to participate in a survey concerning your new product or the latest update to an existing one.
The advantage of surveys lies in your ability to craft questions that range from broad to highly detailed. Furthermore, surveys offer a straightforward means of collecting feedback since participants can conveniently complete and submit them from any location, using any device. They are also conducive to distribution among large participant groups and straightforward data extraction once submitted.
When Should I Use Surveys?
Surveys are an excellent choice when you need a rapid influx of diverse feedback regarding your product. Their versatility allows you to delve into specific feature details by tailoring questions to your test subjects. Moreover, surveys facilitate the swift collection, organisation, and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data, enabling you to enhance your product for your customers efficiently.
2. Focus Groups
Focus groups involve gathering a small group of genuine users, typically totalling around 10-12 individuals, to engage in a discussion about various aspects of your product, prototype, or feature. This group conversation is typically guided by one of your designers, researchers, or other team members to ensure you obtain the specific feedback you seek.
A typical focus group discussion spans one to two hours and revolves around the concerns and experiences of test subjects regarding a particular aspect of the product, introduced by the facilitator.
For instance, if your company is testing a component of your new or updated software, you may have a web designer or engineer lead the discussion to elicit detailed insights into the participants’ interactions with that specific element of the product. Furthermore, your focus group leader can pose targeted questions about the updated segment of the software, streamlining the discussion and ensuring its direct impact.
When Should I Use Focus Groups?
Focus groups offer versatility in user testing, allowing you to delve into any stage of your product’s lifecycle. They prove invaluable in gaining insights into customer desires and expectations through structured discussions. For instance, when conducting a focus group discussion, it is advisable to organise multiple sessions, ensuring that each interaction involves a small group of customers.
3. A/B Testing
A/B testing involves dividing your test subjects into groups and evaluating different versions of your product to ascertain their preferences. This approach enables you to identify which version aligns most effectively with your customer’s needs, delivering an enhanced user experience.
A/B testing empowers you to present distinct product variations to your customers, allowing you to gain insights based on real user feedback instead of relying solely on assumptions derived from buyer personas or information about your target audience. It underscores the importance of not presuming to fully understand your customers, as A/B user testing can reveal unexpected insights.
When Should I Use A/B Testing?
A/B testing is the perfect choice when seeking feedback on which product version resonates best with your target audience. For instance, you could perform an A/B test on a Call to Action (CTA) button on one of your landing pages, varying the wording slightly. This approach enables you to determine which option garners more clicks and conversions, providing valuable insights into user preferences.
4. Beta Testing
Beta testing takes place in the final stages of your product, prototype, or feature development. It involves offering your customers and target audience a version that closely mirrors what the final product will be like upon its release. Beta testing serves as a valuable opportunity to receive the ultimate confirmation from customers before launching your product to the market.
When Should I Use Beta Testing?
Beta testing proves valuable when you’ve essentially completed the design of your product and are seeking a final assessment before its distribution. This phase allows for any last-minute adjustments to enhance the user experience, ensuring it’s well-prepared for your customers.
It’s important to note that beta testing should follow earlier user tests conducted throughout your design process, as it primarily serves for the evaluation of final and crucial updates to the product. Gathering customer feedback prior to this stage ensures that, by the time you reach the beta testing phase, any required modifications are likely to be minor, if necessary at all.
5. Usability Testing
Usability testing involves providing a genuine customer or a member of your target audience with a product, prototype, or feature for the purpose of assessing and evaluating its user-friendliness. Usability, in this context, encompasses how easily the product can be operated, its practicality, and its overall utility. Through usability testing, you gain insights into the degree of intuitiveness your product, prototype, or feature offers from the perspective of your actual customers.
It might seem that usability testing overlaps with the concept of user testing we discussed earlier, but there are distinctions. While some use these terms interchangeably, for the purpose of this discussion, we’ll distinguish them and continue by regarding usability testing as a subset of user testing. Here’s the rationale behind this differentiation:
User Testing vs. Usability Testing
User testing encompasses the entirety of a customer’s interactions with your product, prototype, or feature, including their perceptions, emotions, preferences, responses, and behaviours—from acquisition to disuse. It provides a comprehensive understanding of their overall experience.
Conversely, usability testing specifically hones in on how effectively and to what extent a customer employs your product to achieve a particular objective. While this contributes to the overall user experience, it doesn’t encompass the complete user journey.
To illustrate the distinction: If you’re intrigued by usability testing for your team, consider another important factor—whether you’ll opt for a moderated or unmoderated usability test.
Moderated vs. Unmoderated Usability Testing
Moderated usability testing involves one of your team members sitting down with a real user, providing them with instructions on tasks to perform, and then actively engaging with their feedback during and/or after their interaction with the product.
In contrast, unmoderated usability testing lacks direct communication or interaction with the user. Instead, it typically entails video recordings of the user engaging with your product, prototype, or feature, followed by a separate video where they review their interactions and assess the item.
Moderated usability testing is advantageous when you want to observe real-time user interactions to ensure you gather specific and necessary information. On the other hand, unmoderated usability testing is a suitable choice for testing a large group of actual customers across various locations simultaneously.
As for when to employ usability testing, it is most effective during the early to mid-design phase of a product, prototype, or feature development. This allows you to verify that each element of your design aligns with your customers’ needs and functions as intended, thus minimising the risk of investing further resources in the construction phase without adequate validation.
A contextual popup or website window strategically appears during the user’s journey. When engaged, it presents messages or inquiries to gather user feedback.
When Should I Use Intercepts?
If your research is primarily web-focused and you aim to collect feedback from particular user groups at specific points in their journey, intercepts are the ideal choice for your needs.
This approach is particularly valuable during the idea generation and concept testing phase. Researchers and designers develop prototypes, which can take the form of virtual renditions, 3D mock-ups, or even preliminary sketches on paper. Feedback is gathered from target users through interviews, surveys, or the utilisation of tools such as the Qualtrics Concept Testing Tool.
When Should I Use Prototypes in Testing?
Prototypes should be employed when you possess a confident and exciting idea and aim to bolster the rationale for advancing it into production.
How Do I Perform User Testing?
Embarking on user testing can be a challenging endeavour, but fear not. Allow us to steer you through the process with our comprehensive 7-step guide.
The initial step in user testing is quite straightforward: you must have a product, prototype, or feature ready for testing. This could be a completely new product, a revised product version, a sample, or even a potential addition to an existing product.
2. Chose Your Testing Method
After you’ve crafted your product, prototype, or feature, the next step is to select the most appropriate user testing method. To make this choice, carefully evaluate which testing approach aligns with the specific insights you’re seeking and the urgency of obtaining that feedback. This thoughtful selection process ensures you obtain relevant results tailored to your company and the product under evaluation.
Once you’ve determined your testing method, delve deeper into the process. Consider the specific factors and criteria you intend to examine and assess during testing to ensure you gather the precise feedback you desire from your customers. Here are a few examples of elements to consider and incorporate into your testing, regardless of the chosen method:
Problem discovery involves a systematic approach where your customers and test subjects uncover usability issues associated with a product, prototype, or feature. This exploration may occur as they perform specific tasks with the item. Furthermore, you might employ methods such as the System Usability Scale, a click test, or a heuristic evaluation to delve deeper and gather more comprehensive insights and outcomes related to the issues identified by customers.
Conducting a comparison between two closely related products, prototypes, or features can be instrumental in determining whether you are developing an improved version for your customers. These comparative assessments can involve products developed by your company or pitting one of your products against a similar offering from a competitor.
For instance, it wouldn’t be meaningful to have test subjects compare cutting-edge running shoes with photo editing software. Instead, you’d arrange for testers to evaluate your photo editing software in comparison to its earlier version or a competing product like Adobe Lightroom. This approach provides valuable feedback and context for enhancing the user experience of your software and elevating its capabilities.
You can enlist a group of your test subjects to establish a benchmark from which to refine and enhance your product. These subjects will engage with your product, prototype, or feature and offer recommendations for improvement. After implementing these modifications, you can have the same subjects re-test the item to gauge the effectiveness of the enhancements.
Ease of Use
Ease of Use (or Learnability) involves assessing the level of difficulty a test subject experiences when attempting to complete a task using the given product. This entails observing test subjects as they work through a specific task, allowing them as many attempts as necessary for successful completion. A shallow learning curve suggests that test subjects may only require a single attempt, while a steeper curve may necessitate multiple tries for task accomplishment.
Eye tracking is a testing technique where you utilise video to monitor the eye movements of a test subject as they interact with your product. This method is frequently employed by businesses testing software, as it provides a clear visualisation of the individual’s gaze and where their focus lands on the screen.
3. Find Testers
Next, it’s imperative to locate and enlist individuals to participate in your user test. Regardless of your chosen testing method, user testing demands the involvement of genuine customers, actual members of your target audience, and individuals who align with your buyer personas and empathy maps. This ensures that you collect precise data and insights from the individuals who hold the greatest significance—those who will ultimately purchase, use, and advocate for your products. (We’ll delve into the methods and sources for recruiting test subjects if you don’t already have a pool of participants.)
4. Location, Location, Location
After you’ve assembled your product, selected your testing method, and gathered your test subjects, the next step is to finalise the timing and location for your test. Usual venues for conducting user tests encompass the following:
- Community Space
- Your Office
- Test Subjects’ Homes
The choice among these options depends on the nature of your product, prototype, or feature, its intended use, and its functionalities. When deciding on the test location, it’s crucial to take into account the surroundings of all your test subjects and anticipate any potential distractions they may encounter.
Have you ever been tasked with a job that you knew relatively little about? It’s quite common to wonder about the time commitment, right? Your test subjects are likely to share the same curiosity when it comes to your test. After all, they are dedicating their valuable time to complete the tasks you’ve assigned.
Different user tests vary in duration. Ideally, aim for a testing window of around 30 to 60 minutes per test, per participant. Longer tests tend to result in a decline in the quality of responses and feedback from test subjects, often due to fatigue, boredom, and waning interest. If your test consists of multiple segments or necessitates participants revisiting tasks, ensure you allocate enough time for these activities. This may involve conducting shorter tests more frequently or allowing subjects to take breaks between tasks. The key is to maintain clear communication with your test subjects to ensure they feel informed and valued. Keep in mind that these individuals are part of your genuine target audience, so it’s crucial to leave a positive impression on them.
Now, it’s time to disseminate your test. First and foremost, ensure that your test subjects have access to all the necessary instructions, including guidance on how to provide their feedback and analysis.
The specific instructions and information you convey to your test subjects before and during the test can vary based on your product, company, industry, and chosen testing method. Nevertheless, let’s review some common points that companies often address before and during test distribution:
- Clarify the objectives of the user test, enabling participants to focus on specific aspects of your product and understand the purpose behind the testing.
- Provide an estimated duration for the test so participants can plan their schedule accordingly and comprehend the time commitment.
- Offer an opportunity for participants to ask any last-minute questions or seek clarification before commencing the test.
- Verify that participants have all the necessary equipment, such as a laptop with a webcam and downloaded screen-sharing software.
- Inquire if there are any distractions in their environment that need to be eliminated to ensure a conducive testing atmosphere.
- Ensure participants comprehend your expectations regarding how they should deliver feedback and analysis after the test, whether through verbal communication, written reports, or completion of a designated form.
The ultimate and most pivotal step in the process is the analysis of your results. These results constitute the primary objective of your user testing endeavour: gathering essential feedback from actual customers to refine your product and enhance its user experience.
Take into account all the input provided by your test subjects, weigh the consensus among their conclusions, and be open to revisiting your design, making minor or substantial adjustments as warranted.
How Can I Find Users To Test With?
How can you enlist test subjects who accurately represent your buyer personas and target audience for your user testing? Here are three primary methods to achieve this:
1. Use Existing Customers
One effective approach to recruiting test participants for user testing is to explore your existing customer database to identify individuals willing to participate. Additionally, consider reviewing your email subscription list or identifying customers who have provided reviews and ratings on platforms such as Google and Facebook.
2. Use Your Commercial Network
Another strategy for recruiting test subjects is to leverage social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. Additionally, seek referrals from your colleagues and connections within your professional network.
3. Use Services
In the case of a sizable project with ample resources, you might consider enlisting the services of a user testing platform. These third-party websites facilitate the connection between your business and suitable test participants tailored to your unique requirements.
Regardless of the user testing approach you select, you’ll gain valuable perspectives, insights, and feedback from genuine individuals—the very same individuals who will play a pivotal role in driving your business forward. By attentively considering their experiences across all phases of your product journey, spanning from initial prototypes to freshly launched products and cherished favourites, you hold the potential to generate genuine and enduring value for everyone who engages with your company.