How to Nail Your User Testing Process

How to nail your user testing process

What is user testing?

User testing is a technique to test a product and the usability of its interface, based on real user interaction. It can also be called usability testing. It’s recommended for all design projects to do user testing during the early stages (prototype) because it provides relevant data from real users to improve and guide the design and helps produce a much better product.

User testing sessions can be moderated or unmoderated, and conducted either in-person or online. This article focuses on moderated sessions. You will need to decide which method works best for your project, and consider the pros and cons of each type of test.

Some tools for online testing are UserTesting or UserBob, and PingPong. You can also use any web conferencing software where you can interview users and share screens.

‌It is important to set your user testing goals and plan accordingly. What do you want to get from it? Qualitative or quantitative results? The data you need will act as a guide to the best way to conduct the testing.

Why do user testing?

  • We are not the users. We know too much about tech and our product to be able to see it with unbiased eyes. User testing aims to gather objective insights on the usability of the product.
  • User testing is relatively cheap. It can be done in a few days with only 5–10 users (for quantitative studies when the goal is gathering more data, it’s best to test with more users)
  • Nothing beats an understanding of how your end-users will actually interact with the product. When we see users interact with the product and struggle to complete a task, this motivates us to redesign it based on facts.‌

How to do user testing?

  • Test with representative users. Select a variety of users from your target audience (choose a mix of different genders, different ages, and degrees of technical understanding) so the testing is valid.
  • Give the user realistic tasks. Let them explore the product with the intention of achieving a specific goal. Avoid asking biased questions that can affect the results.
  • “Silence is golden”. Stay as silent as possible and let the user speak while interacting with the product. Do not interfere, (unless they really get stuck) so you see how they react to the design.‌

The user testing script

Start with an intro of yourself (ice-breakers Qs) and the goal of the user test (make it clear that you are testing the product, not the user!) and answer any questions the user might have.

‌Explain the task that you want the user to perform, and advise them to “talk aloud” as they do it.

Make the user comfortable to give any feedback that comes to mind (positive or negative).

Organize your questions with the key features you are testing, so you are able to easily follow the user actions and take notes while he/she interacts with the prototype. Ask open-ended questions and avoid biased questions to avoid inaccurate results!

Consent form

When working with users it is important to keep them well informed about the main goal of the study and how you will use their data. You need their permission to record the session (voice or screen) and let them know about the use you will make with their data. It’s important to follow data protection laws and any regulations that may apply in your jurisdiction.

The form will normally include a confidentiality clause too, to protect the proprietary design, ideas, and prototypes.‌

Recruiting participants

Depending on the methodology of the study there are formal or informal ways to recruit users:

  • Guerrilla testing (asking anybody passing by to do testing)
  • Existing users (email request, pop up banners on company site, social media groups)
  • Online services recruitment (usertesting.com, hellopingpong.com)
  • Survey and product testing agencies

‌To encourage participation in the study and to appreciate the time and effort the participant is putting in, incentives always help. Usually in the form of compensation or a gift voucher.‌ For some early-stage SaaS products, beta testers might be rewarded with product discounts or additional features.

The session

Depending on the type of project and session, the number of participants in the user test will vary. It can be done by just one UX Designer or Researcher, or include more people (one conducting the session, and another taking notes). Just don’t overwhelm the user!

‌Get your equipment ready! Normally you will need:

  • Device to test the prototype (or paper prototype)
  • Laptop, phone, notebook, pen…
  • Microphone, camera…

⚠ Remember to rehearse the first session with someone who has not been involved in the project to ensure everything will run smoothly and as planned.

Analyzing the results

Once the session is finished, organize and summarize your notes. Get your team to agree on what the most important takeaways were, document them, and agree on the next steps together (Design directions, next user testing, a presentation with stakeholders etc.)

‌These findings will help you to continue developing the product based on real users’ experiences.‌

The report

Presenting your results to stakeholders in a clear, professional, and engaging way is very important in order to move forward with the design process, so creating a presentation with your findings is essential.

‌The presentation should contain:

  1. What was tested (Background summary of project and tasks performed)
  2. Who your testers were (Demographics)
  3. Findings (Were our assumptions right? Include user’s quotes, images and/or videos, and severity of the issues found)
  4. Recommendations (Suggested actions based on facts/data)
  5. Next steps

Conclusion

User testing is a great way to improve your products, and see your prototypes in action. There are many ways to approach it depending on your goals. The above highlights some best practices to follow based on some of our in-house processes and lessons learned from our professional experience.

Remember that it’s not a standalone process, and it should form one component of your UX approach. Complement user testing with other UX research methods. Test, learn, iterate, and get ready to nail your product design!