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No matter how innovative, a product isn’t successful unless its users deem it so. This is why user testing is such an important part of the product development process.
User testing is a method to validate an idea or the execution of a concept. Through user testing, customers experience your product and provide feedback that reveals whether or not it works effectively and is easy to use. And as an entrepreneur, user testing provides critical insight that will help you more fully match your product to the market need.
Here, we’ll explore why user testing is so important along with five steps to include in your user testing for a successful product.
Why user testing is critical
The goal of user testing is to gather as much feedback as possible as early as you can. You want to know whether or not your product meets the needs of the users it’s being created for before launch.
Reasons to conduct user testing
- Cost reduction: It’s less costly to fix something in the development phase before it goes to market, and customer support costs will also be reduced.
- Relationship-building: Establish a connection with potential customers or further deepen your relationship with existing customers by asking them to participate. Their opinion matters to you, and asking them for input matters to them.
- Unbiased perspective: Reaching outside of your company to potential customers provides more unbiased insight than testing exclusively with employees.
Steps for successful user testing
For user testing to provide the information and insights you need, it has to be thorough. These five steps will help you conduct an effective user testing process.
Step 1: Develop a plan
Establish a structured framework. A well-crafted test plan should include:
- Test objectives with testing scope and goals
- A schedule for user testing, including when it will be integrated into the development process
- Clear criteria for recruiting testers
- The type(s) of tests that will be performed, including things like if they will be in-person or virtual, and if facilitators and observers will be used
- How you will track metrics
- Equipment and tools that will be used
What to cover in your plan
While you can (and should) test a variety of elements and functionality, there are a few that you’ll want to be sure to cover, including accessibility, performance, security, permissions and device usage.
Accessibility describes how easy it is for users of all abilities to access, navigate and understand your product or user interface. Performance testing includes things like load time, battery consumption, online and offline use.
For security and permissions, check that you’re only opening the permissions for each user type that are absolutely required. With a tech product, you will also want to consider which devices are compatible, including Mac, PC, phone, tablet and others.
In addition to personal observation, you can use tools to help capture user testing data.
Step 2: Write a script
Once you have the list of tasks you want testers to perform, the next step is to write a script. Following the same script for each user helps to ensure consistency when measuring results.
Your script communicates the goals of the test to those taking part in it, and describes what they can expect during the process. It’s also a good idea to let testers know that their invaluable feedback will be considered for integration into your product.
Your script should provide test subjects with a list of tasks to perform as you watch how they carry them out, while capturing feedback during the process. Be sure to include both specific and open-ended tasks.
A specific task asks the user to follow a specific sequence of steps with your product. An open-ended task asks the user to complete a task using intuition.
Step 3: Find testers
Your testers should be those representative of your target consumers for the product. Gather a variety of people at different skill and experience levels who fit within that target market.
Testers can include your current customers (customers of any of your products), prospects, people in your social media network that fit your user profile, and online resources. Additionally, there are companies that offer user testing recruitment (although they can be expensive).
Step 4: Execute the test
Don’t interrupt the testing after it starts, as this can interfere with the process and impact your results. Also, resist the urge to lead or to guide the testers — simply observe their actions. Results should be recorded, either by observers or by any software being used.
Step 5: Review results
Once you complete the tests and collect the results in accordance with your plan, it’s time to review results. Look at which suggestions were given by multiple testers. Determine which ones you want to incorporate into your product, and prioritize them.
Because user testing provides feedback directly from prospective users, it will provide perspectives and insights you wouldn’t have gained any other way. User testing will help you ensure that your product is usable, valuable and meets the needs of your target customers.