User Testing: Why?

Designers create material for consumption. They’re used to it. The process has always been incredibly one-sided. The designer designs. The developer develops. The consumer consumes.

I believe this process should be more collaborative: designers working with users. User testing is a very powerful tool, and it can dramatically improve the work-flow. Here’s my take on it.

Everyone can do it! That doesn’t mean that all designers are innate testing coordinators. I, for one, am still learning as I go. If you’re looking to learn a little more about the process, I suggest you get Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think and start from Chapter 9. Then flip to the first page and read till you hit the back cover. It’s a great book!

Testing should be fast to execute. This depends greatly on what you’re testing. If you’re testing a part of a product, it may take just a couple of minutes. You can test as many subjects as you see fit, but usually, the first couple of sessions set the tone for the rest.

Tools? What tools? Just Skype your tester, ask them to share their screen, and record that using QuickTime or something similar. For mobile testing, Invision prototype sessions can be recorded using Lookback, and the results are pretty cool!

Testing uncovers different user perceptions. We’re used to collaborating with other designers and developers. However, at the end of the day, their judgement is biased. They know what your brand is about, what you already have, and what you aim to accomplish… so they are likely to allow their role to dictate their views.

Proof of the issues. The recordings themselves can be shared internally to prove how important said issues are. No one can really argue with five recordings of users struggling to find the button they’re looking for.

Raises alarm or confidence. Irrelevant of the stage you’re in, after a couple of testing sessions, the problems most users face become evident. It’s incredible how real an issue becomes when you see someone else trying to solve it. The earlier you test during the design and development process, the better. You can preview people actually using the product, instead of assuming how they’d be using it.

Written by Noel Zahra