User testing is without a doubt a very important tool when developing your product or service. But we often forget to take into consideration small aspects that can make or break the user experience. Small things such as making small talk in order to break the ice just before the actual test have proven themselves to be very useful to collect unbiased data. It is important to remember that when we conduct user tests, we are trying to emulate a situation where the user would use the product by himself, without help from someone else.
Here are 07 tips that will help you conduct your user tests and collect useful data for improving the user experience.
You should conduct user tests at every new cycle of the product development
The rule of thumb is to always test before the development phase. Because when the product is already developed, the cost of making new changes in the system are going to be high. Whereas if you conduct a test with a prototype, making changes to that prototype are going to be a lot less expensive. Once you make the final changes, now you can begin the development phase.
Define the objectives of the user tests
It is very important to set goals before you initiate the testing. Defining objectives beforehand will make it easier to formulate questions and tasks that will be presented to users in the facilitator’s guide. It will also help you to focus your attention on the questions that really matter and to not go off topic during the test, which will make it really hard to analyze the data in the end.
Recruit participants who are potential users
Make sure that the participants are people who would use the product in real life. What is the problem that the product is trying to solve ? Who are the people who face this problem ? These are questions that you need to ask before starting the recruitment. Recruiting the right people will allow you to collect more useful information about your product. When defining the criteria upon which the recruitment will be based, you have too options : 1 - you can decide to go for a large public (guerilla testing), the advantage is that it’s cheap and saves a lot of time or 2 - you can choose a specific public (niche) which will allow you to collect data which is more focused on the specific problem, but keep in mind that this option will be more expensive and time consuming.
Do not influence the participants
This part seems quite obvious, but many times, we subconsciously influence the participants with either the choice of words when formulating the questions, or by giving guidance to the user to help him achieve the tasks. That is why it is recommended to not use technical but rather formulate the question in a manner that it will be easily understandable for anyone. Even when the user is stuck somewhere, you should let him figure out a way to complete the task, and when you are sure that he or she can’t get any further, then you can give him hints on how to proceed in order to get to the next part.
The key to facilitating a user test is finding a good balance between listening, observing and taking notes. That is why it is often recommended to have 2 facilitators even though one can be enough. The nonverbal language is as important as the things the user says. For example looking for signs of frustration when facing a difficult task can give us some idea about how difficult it is to achieve that task.
Engage all stakeholders
Every stakeholder probably has his own vision of the product, and the user test will help to reassess if those visions are aligned with the reality. That is why it is always important to create a document that summarizes the findings and to share it with all the teams and all stakeholders. That way, everyone will know if the project is headed in the right direction or not.
You cannot solve every problem at once
With just five user tests, we can uncover dozens or even hundreds of problems within our product. So it is crucial to keep the initial goal in mind and to know where to focus when analyzing the data and coming up with solutions. Since the user experience process is iterative, it is very unlikely that we will come up with all the solutions for the first version. Therefore it becomes very important to know how to prioritize while taking into consideration time and budget constraints when making decisions.
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