User testing: Why it's worth doing

One of my favourite parts of working in product design is user testing. This is where we get to interact with the people who'll actually be using our finished product, and find out if our designs are doing what they should.

Normally, when bringing up the topic of user testing with clients, the main concerns are around prioritisation; is this what we should be spending the time and budget on? The fact of the matter is that not only will proper user testing validate the work we've done so far, but it will also save time and money for the client, and even help spark new ideas for how we can take the product further and improve it even more.

In short this is an invaluable method for finding out if the product we've designed is easy for end-users to use, if we've prioritised its features correctly, and if it works the way the client's expecting it to.

Through user testing we're able to:

  • Get to know the users more; how they behave and how they like to work
  • Discover any problems in the design (or development) so far
  • Find new ways to further improve the product

What user testing is

User testing is the process of validating a product's ease-of-use and its functionality. We can do this in plenty of different ways, but normally the process looks something like this:

Step 1: Wireframes or a clickable prototype is created

Step 2: The team comes up with a test plan

Step 3: Some participants are recruited

Step 4: The user test is conducted

Step 5: The results from the test are analysed

Step 6: The findings are documented and implemented

When we design products at Inktrap, we make sure to conduct user testing alongside the entire product design process. This way we can keep going back to the end-goal and make sure we're staying focused on what's important.

Keep in mind not all user testing needs to be done using well thought-out, formal sessions, but can be informal walk-throughs of prototypes, giving the participant just a handful of tasks to complete, to check if the designs are intuitive.

Why it's worth doing

User testing is a great way of helping you understand how people use your product, and for what purpose. It'll answer questions like 'Do people use the product for the same purpose you had in mind when you designed it?', 'Do they get maximum value out of it?' and even if the answer to these questions are yes, 'Are they happy or frustrated when using the product?'

1. User testing saves time and money

User testing is a great way of catching any problems with the design early on. By making sure to test out and verify designs before the product is built we can avoid expensive development errors and the risk of having to rework something that's already been built. We can use the valuable feedback from our users to make well thought-out and user-centered design decisions, and feel confident that what we're spending time and money building, will be successful.

2. User testing verifies that our goals are met

During a user test the participants are given tasks that simulate what they'd be using the finished product for. This way we can make sure that the end-goals for the product are met and verify our design as a whole.

How to conduct successful user tests

Test with real users

Your user testing is most valuable when done with people who will actually be using your product once it's up and running.

Test your test

Before conducting your user tests, test out the plan and script to make sure you're testing the right thing, get an idea of how long the session will take, and your prototype is set up properly to be tested. This can be done with a colleague, a friend, or a family member, just to assure your test is well planned out.

Bring a friend

It's very helpful to ask someone on your team to join the testing session as a silent observer. They can take notes and record the participants' actions and comments, provide another perspective and insights, and be a valuable addition in analysing the results of the test afterwards.

'Think aloud'

Before starting your testing session, it's a good idea to ask the participant(s) to 'think aloud' as they go through the prototype and complete the tasks they're given. This way you can get a better idea of the thought process behind the choices made, which can be useful in coming up with improvements for your design. Keep in mind you may still need to prompt the participants to share their thoughts if they're working quietly.

How can Inktrap help?

At Inktrap, we help teams build great digital products. For over 8 years we’ve been helping technology businesses focus on their users, from early-stage to funding and beyond. We know user testing inside and out so don't hesitate to talk with us for any help you want planning and executing your user test.

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