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10 Simple Steps to End User Testing

So you have an idea for a product. You think people will love it right? But what if they don’t? What if you are slightly off with your vision? An easy way to increase the likelihood you create a product that your users will love is to TEST the idea early and often with your target users.

Often, testing is thought to be something you do when you have “something to show” a potential user. Many times this is thought to be a simplified version of the working product, but there are many opportunities before you have a working product to test and validate your idea.

Below are 10 simple steps that will help you incorporate user feedback early and often in the product development lifecycle.

1. Identify who you believe are your end users. Ideally you can test with 5-7 users in each round, but they don’t have to be the same people every time. It may be helpful to have some users test in every session alongside brand new users.

2. Grab that long round yellow thing with a #2 on it, yes the pencil, and start sketching. What will your product look like? At this stage disregard any color or design ideas and focus on the function. What do you want a user to be able to do and in what order? The sketches below are representative of the level of fidelity you should be looking for in the sketching phase. 

Design Ideas

3. Round up your 5-7 users and walk them through the sketches. If they ask you what a button does ask them “what do you think it does?” Collect all feedback using as close to the exact words the users say as possible. It may be helpful to have someone act as a scribe.

4. Analyze the feedback. Are there any overlaps in feedback or trends? Did users ask the same questions? Use this information to inform any changes to the product that you’ll want to incorporate into the next step. If you notice that you are getting feedback that is all over the place, first make sure you are following similar processes when explaining the sketches for each user. Next consider interviewing a few more users or doing another round of sketching and interviews before moving on to the next step.

5. Create mockups and breathe some life into your sketches with color and show the user’s expected flow through the system. This could be as simple as a PowerPoint deck with a screen per page that you quickly go through to show the user what happens when they click on something. At this point, you will want to start creating some semblance of a visual identity for the product, but rest assured that nothing you do at this point will be set in stone. The mockups shown below are representative of the next iteration of the sketches shown above. 

Wireframes and Sketches for User Testing

6. Round up your 5-7 users and walk them through the mocks. Ask the users at the end about things they liked and disliked. Were they confused at any time? Was there any part of the experience that they didn’t understand or wanted to know more about? What part were they most interested in? Again, collect all feedback using as close to the exact words the users provides as possible. It may be helpful to have someone act as a scribe.

7. Use this feedback to inform any changes you want to incorporate into the prototype. A prototype is a tool for testing ideas, assumptions and customer segments that allows for quick iterations. This prototype should focus on some of the areas where you really need to determine if a user wants this feature or if they want this feature the way it’s designed now. Leave out things like login or account settings unless that’s where you are looking for validation (chances are you aren’t!). Sidebar: Up until this point you have been conducting mediated feedback sessions, but once you have a prototype you may begin experimenting with some unmediated sessions as well.

Mediated Unmediated
  • A trained person conducts 5-7 tests with customers or prospects using a script. They document their observations and generate insights by looking at all of the test subjects.
  • A link is sent to targeted customers/prospects and they are able to use the tool on their own. The user’s activity is tracked and they receive a survey or phone call to get their feedback.
  • This type of testing is best early a product’s development because it allows you to collect richer information and insights into how the customer responds emotionally.
  • This type of testing is more helpful once the initial concept is validated. It helps the team see if features are effective and make decisions about what features are most helpful to users.

8. Send your prototype to end users with enough context for them to understand where they are entering the experience. Follow up with users via email or phone call to collect additional feedback. Each user’s interaction with the prototype should be recorded or tracked for further analysis. The above describes an unmediated session. If you feel the first prototype still requires mediation, feel free to do so and aim to have an unmediated session the next iteration.

9. Repeat steps #7 and #8 at least 2-3 more times. You should repeat steps 7 and 8 until you feel you have enough validation to confirm that the product is worth investing further development time and money. Another iteration of the design that we originally saw in sketch form is shown below. 

product development strategy

10. Scope and estimate what it will take to get your first release into the market. Confirm that this amount of time, money, and effort is still a valid business decision that propels your business objectives forward. If yes, then get to work!

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