The importance of user testing
Updated 6 October 2022
Let’s take a look at some of the types of user testing you can do, why you do it and the importance of running these user tests.
It goes without saying that triple checking something before submitting it is key to making sure you haven’t missed anything. Releasing a product is no different, and user testing is the perfect way to make sure that your product is actually useable, it’s not going to break and is also a solution for the problem you’re designing for.
There are quite a few different approaches to user testing and they all have their own benefits.
What user testing is and how it's different from usability testing
User testing is the process of getting your end users to interact with your product. This can be specific to a particular feature, an entire website or app and even a prototype that you're working on.
Doing these tests allow you to see your users pain points while they're interacting with your product, and on the flip side, it also allows you to see what interactions give them that warm fuzzy feeling when using it.
User testing is sometimes confused with Usability Testing, and while they both can bring up some pretty interesting bits of data when users are interacting with your product, there are a few differences between these two methods.
A simple way to distinguish the difference between the two types of testing is by thinking of user testing being experience based, and then usability testing being more goal based.
User Testing is a way of seeing how your users are interacting with the overall User Experience of your product from the time they get their hands on the product until they put it down, and on the other hand, you would use Usability Testing when asking your users to complete a specific task such as finding a product on your site and purchasing it.
Why do we need to do user testing?
At the end of the day, your users are the ones that are going to be using your product. Making sure that your users can complete their tasks and actions by using your product is the only way that you’re going to know if it’s working or not.
Seeing a users frustration at a certain feature within your product is a perfect indicator that something needs to be done to make the experience more enjoyable and practical for them. The same applies with your users scratching their heads and not knowing where to go to complete their task, user testing really is the only way to get these sorts of insights.
Product teams can run usability tests to gain many types of data about their products. But most teams use these tests to learn the following:
Ease of use: Is the solution straightforward, self-explanatory, and easy to learn?
Efficiency: Are users able to complete each task with a minimum amount of time or clicks?
User-friendliness: When a user has trouble figuring out the next action or where to find a feature, does the system offer real-time help? And is this form of assistance itself easy to locate and use?
Types of user testing
There are quite a few ways that you can run user tests with your product, we’ll take a look at some of the most common methods of user testing:
Moderated testing: Where you’ll sit with the user and give them a set of tasks to perform with your product. You’ll also ask questions around why they found something hard, where they think a certain feature should be and even how they would do it differently.
Unmoderated testing: You can still give your user a list of tasks to complete, but you’re not there. You’d typically be using a remote software that can video record the user interacting with your platform, and tracking their frustration points.
A/B testing: A really simple way of seeing which option works best for your users. You’d give them two ways to reach the same goal and see which one of these is easier for them.
Heatmaps: A little different in the way of getting your user to test specific journeys or features, but heatmaps are a great indicator to see where people are going on your website, and the bits they are choosing to interact with and the bits they’re not too keen on.
How might we go about user testing?
There are 7 main steps when it comes to conducting tests with your users, and it's important to make sure you cover these areas so you aren't wasting yours and your users time and getting the best results possible.
1. Planning is always key when you are getting people to spend their time with you to test your products. Having sure there are goals or outcomes that you are wanting to achieve from your tests means that you're going to get the data you need to make any necessary improvements or tweaks that come up in the process
2. Getting participants is next, you can't do any user testing without getting users to use your product. Sometimes the participants you're going to conduct your tests with will have a certain criteria such as roles within a business your product is designed for, or it can be a more general group of people if that is more suitable
3. Preparing materials is going to allow you to figure out the best way of testing. You'll need to figure out if you are going to be monitoring people, sending out surveys or questionnaires based around your product, or if you're going to be doing some unmonitored testing.
4. Setting up the environment could be planning a place where you are going to conduct the tests or any particular tasks or goals they are going to need to be able to achieve with your product if you are doing something like usability testing
5. Conducting the test which is the fun part! Depending on your method of testing is going to depend on how hands on you are as a designer, but you need to make sure that the user is comfortable and able to perform the set of tasks that you need them to with all the right tools.
6. Analysing the data is vital, if you get users to go and perform tests on your product and you don't actually evaluate the results and find trends, the tests become irrelevant. Data is the best way that you can see if multiple users had the same pleasant or unpleasant interaction with your product, and it's also going to give you solid evidence and guidance for what changes you need to make, and how they are going to affect your users when your product is released to the wild.
7. Reporting your results is the last step! You'll want to show these results to your client and your team once you've analysed the data so you can make the decision on what the next steps are with your product. It's always nice to have data that's going to back up assumptions you might have had previously, or evidence that's going to open your eyes to an opportunity you might not have originally thought about!
Actions speak louder than words
There’s always the option of sending out surveys to gather feedback about your product, but these tend to miss out some really important information about the usability of your product. There might be bias or the concern about them not wanting to give honest feedback about your product which is why seeing your user interact with your product is priceless.
Seeing your user get visibly confused or frustrated with using your product, and then asking them why, what and where can open up a whole can of worms with feedback and suggestions on how to improve your design.
User testing can be really cheap!
User testing is a huge preventative measure when it comes to design. Taking that extra week or so (depending on the size of your product/project) to make sure everything is correct before releasing is a no-brainer. It’s going to dramatically reduce the need to put out fires left, right and centre because your product doesn’t work the way it should for your users and also prevent you from having to re-design and re-develop something that doesn’t go well on release.
The actual testing itself is pretty much free too, your users would most probably be more than happy to help if you offered them a cheeky coffee for a tiny bit of their time.
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