User testing is an essential part of the UX Design process.
Ask any UX or Product designer around and it would be difficult to find one who hasn’t completed a user testing session or at least participated in one.
User Testing has many benefits to your design work including
And so much more! 🤩
I’m lucky to be in a tech company where I have been able to apply this skill and get further help to improve my abilities in this area from an awesome design researcher. I would love to share some of the learnings I have gained to upcoming designers or those just wanting to sharpen up their skills.
Doing user testing without clear goals is dangerous. Without knowing what you’re looking to validate, you’ll risk focusing on feedback that isn’t helpful to what you want to find out and have a wasted session.
Before starting to talk to people, make sure you have clear in mind and on script what you’re trying to find out from your audience. Having these priorities listed will help you keep accountable to what you’re trying to find out first rather than trying to take in everything shared onboard and risk missing important cues to dig further into a participant's response.
For any observers in your sessions, these goals will also let them know what you’re trying to validate and what they can keep an eye out for in the feedback given.
Don’t settle for just getting any user that doesn’t align to your goals in testing. Not paying attention to who your participants are can backfire and damage the feedback you get which could point your work down the wrong direction.
Common examples of overlooked facts that can impact the quality of your participant when recruiting include:
Running into these issues can be avoided by doing a quick background check on interviewees beforehand. There’s a few methods to use depending on your situation. For example, you can ask someone internally in your company such as the customer support teams if the participant you’re recruiting is right for your needs. Or if you’re an individual freelancer you could run a small survey when recruiting potential people to get some background information on who each person is and filter out who may not be right.
Finding out more about your participants ahead of time can help give more confidence that you’re talking to the right people and feedback is relative to your work than just getting any feedback from any or the wrong audience.
It may sound like common sense, but it’s so easy to overlook how much prototype hotspots can butcher up your user testing session. Even experienced designers make this mistake in their prototypes when going out to their audience.
Whichever tool you’re using (Figma, Sketch, UX Pin etc) make sure you turn off those big hotspots. It doesn’t take long for participants to look for that hotspot as a quick give away to find out how to progress in your design and will result in them giving you a biased answer when you’re wanting honest feedback on what can be improved in your design concept and its user journey instead.
When running sessions, it’s common to get lost on some of the answers given to you and guessing what those confusing answers could mean.
It’s ok to ask again for some more clarification if necessary. In the past to stop myself from making as many guesses, I tend to ask the interviewee to “share more about subject X” they just mentioned if I don’t fully get what was said. Another way I double check I understand what the feedback means is to share to a participant what I believe they meant in their answer so I can get more clarity again to help me understand their needs or pain points.
It would be much worse if you walked away from the test more confused about what to do next because you didn’t understand the feedback.
At the end of all your testing make sure you slow down and re-watch your recordings.
Analysing your results can feel like a time consuming task after talking to lots of people. But trying to rush past this step can affect the impact your findings have on your next design iteration. Examples on how speeding past this step can impact your work include:
Putting in time to dissect what you have discovered gives you time to summarise what needs to be fixed first for you, and create alignment with other team members or stakeholders. This will help keep everyone on the same page about what the next steps are so you can carry on with better confidence that your design work is backed with both user validation and stakeholder approval.
My last tip is if you want to improve this skill faster, getting help from others is a great way to do it. As I shared earlier I’ve been lucky to have someone I can ask for advice and guidance to help improve my abilities here. While not everyone has access to this resource in their day job, there are plenty of UX designers out there (particularly on ADPlist) who are more than happy to share even better industry tips that can help you improve further.
User testing has been a core part of my UX design process for a long while now. It’s helped me improve myself as a designer and taught me how it’s not impossible, but pretty darn hard to design without allowing room for this step in your UX work.
Continue to seek out new ideas to grow because that’s a constant in this industry. :)
Thanks for reading 🤓!
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