How to do user testing in 3 simple steps

Startup Development House
12 November 2019
4 min read

User testing is one of the most critical parts of the IT development process. During this phase, you have a small, yet representative group of your target customers test your prototype, feature, or even the entire product before you place it on the market.

And why is this so important? Because user evaluation is the final indicator, telling you whether your project fulfills the necessary requirements. User testing allows you to:

  • see what works and what doesn’t,

  • detect usability issues,

  • improve the user experience,

  • avoid mishaps. 

It also saves you a lot of time and money, as you can make corrections and modifications in advance, without turning everything upside down. This is also why user testing should be conducted on a regular basis, and not only at the last minute. 

Now, let’s have a look at the basic approach.  

How to do user testing: a step by step guide

Develop a plan

Whether you want to conduct user testing for a website or an app – establishing a solid plan will help you do it right and in an organized manner, allowing you to actually draw valuable conclusions. Here are some hints on what the planning phase should include. 

  • Define user testing scope and goals.

You may want to test your entire application, with all its features. However, it’s better to do it in chunks and focus on one aspect at a time. For example, the scope may be limited to the purchasing process, and the goal may be to successfully buy a product. 

  • Choose a user testing method.

Once you know what to test, it’s time to decide how, according to your objectives. There are plenty of methods to choose from, like A/B testing, eye tracking or in-depth interviews

  • Indicate the location, schedule and equipment.

Firstly, you have to decide whether you want to conduct user testing on the premises or remotely, and when you want to do it. Then think about the tools you may need, like webcams, tablets or screen recording apps. 

  • Create task scenarios.

It’s important to prepare an understandable description of the task without actually presenting any specific instructions on how to do it, as this is something users have to be able to figure out themselves. This is the most important part of user testing! 

  • Identify key metrics.

You may want to measure things like: the number of errors, completion rate or time it takes to finish a task. This should be associated with the business goal of each feature.

Recruit users

Now it’s time to get representative testers – and remember that they don’t have to have user testing experience. Actually, just the opposite. The less they know about the user testing process, the more naturally they behave. 

  • Establish selection criteria.

Your testers should reflect your perfect customers (usually based on personas), so it’s important to define, e.g., their age, gender, profession, nationality, education or family status. 

  • Indicate the number of participants.

Include 3-5 participants per one persona. This is enough to detect crucial issues.

  • Screen candidates and invite selected ones.

Do background checks, exclude specialists (like designers or product owners, as you want to know the average user experience), talk to candidates who seem to fit best, and invite the chosen few.

Conduct user testing

OK. The day has come. Thankfully, you are perfectly prepared – no need to be stressed. So, what are the steps for user testing now? 

  • Set up the environment.

Prepare the workspace, devices and software. If you will be doing remote user testing, make sure that everything’s connected and ready to be recorded. 

  • Do a test run first.

Check if the whole test is prepared well: tasks, questions, equipment. Measure the average time and make necessary corrections.

  • Present the task.

As mentioned above, make everything clear but don’t go into details. Let the testers do their job. 

  • Observe the process.

Be present, observe and take notes. Do not push on results. If your tester is not able to complete the task – do not guide him/her, unless you really need to get to a particular part of the application. Every type of user behaviour counts. 

  • Make a report.

When they finish, put your observations and measurable results into one detailed report. 

  • Analyze the results.

Time to draw conclusions and make adequate corrections. You might want to analyze the results for one type of persona or cross-reference them.

Final thoughts

As you can see, with the above user testing guidelines, the entire process is not that complicated. However, it’s an ideal scenario – a universal pattern to follow. In reality, it can be, of course, slightly more complex. It’s just important to remember that you are not your user – you are an expert who knows the project inside out. Thus, you may have a totally different way of thinking about it than an actual client. 

You may be surprised at what parts of your website or mobile app require modifications. So, test, analyze and repeat – in order to reveal nearly 100% of your present or future problems. 

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