Designing a product without User Testing is like tailoring a suit without someone trying it on. It's what makes good designs, great and prevents you from creating a product that doesn't meet the user's needs. If you're a new or an experienced tester, here are 5 ways to get more out of Usability Testing.
Test early, test often
You've probably heard the expression fail early, fail often. The same principle applies when it comes to Usability Testing. You want to be testing in the early stages of your project and that's ideally when you're designing wireframes. That way, when you inveitibly discover that your designs aren't perfect, it's easy to make changes. This is a lot faster and more cost-effective than making changes in programming.
Test often. This is important too. You want to make sure that you're testing continuously to course-correct any major mistakes.
Pro tip: Remember to test new designs with different users. Retesting with the same users will skew your results because they are already familiar with your designs.
Have a plan
The first step to User Testing is answering the following questions:
- What am I testing?
- What do I want to learn?
- Who am I testing?
- How will I test them?
- What tasks will they complete?
- What questions will I ask before the test?
- What questions will I ask during the test?
- What questions will I ask after the test?
- What materials do I need?
If you can clearly answer all of these questions, your user tests are guaranteed to run a lot smoother and you'll ultimately get better results.
Have a backup plan
If there's one undeniable truth about User Testing, it's that something will go wrong. Your prototype won't work, you'll forget batteries for the camera or worst-case scenario, people won't show up.
Make sure you have a backup plan for all of these scenarios, especially the last. By nature, people are busy so it's not uncommon for let's say half your test subjects to flake on you. That's why it's important to schedule in more people than you need. And if they do all show up, that's even better for you.
Pro tip: Giving an incentive for testing is always a great way to get people to show up.
There are plenty of ways that you can conduct your User Test. And of course, different projects call for different testng methodologies. That being said, the approach that I've gotten the best results from is Thinking Aloud Testing. It's exactly what you think it is: Test subjects say what they're thinking aloud while they're using your product.
What's great about this approach is that you understand "the why" behind the usability/UX issues (also known as Qualitative data). "The what" is going to tell you what's wrong, but the why is going to help you understand how to fix it.
Get the right tools
Usability testing has never been easier thanks to the wide selection of tools out there. My personal favorites are Lookback and UserTesting.com
Lookback is awesome if you usually conduct your own tests in-person and you want a way to record them. With the Lookback's Participate App, you can record the screen, the test subject’s voice AND face with your laptop/phone's frontal camera.
UserTesting.com is great if you want to test remotely. Simply upload a prototype, write out a few tasks, choose who you want to test with and UserTesting.com will take care of the rest.