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Lean User Testing Methods: Test Before You Build

December 16, 2015

Every project has different goals, needs and budgets; therefore some projects may require special types of testing. Here we explore the concept of Lean User Testing, coupled with Lean UX principles.

User testing is a vital part of UX Design, and in some cases overlooked due to the belief it’s too expensive or it will take too much time. You can sketch, conceptualize, research and design all you want but at the end of the day, the proof is in the testing. How your intended audience interacts with your product, what motivates them to return and engage and how they perceive it is the pure definition of UX. With so many affordable testing resources now available, it can be done quickly and with minimal costs. Test early, get it out there and get feedback.

Guerilla Testing

Guerilla testing is a popular topic in the debate of how to conduct user testing. This model speaks of testing constantly and using friends, co-workers or even random test subjects at a local coffee shop. As this approach may work in instance such as organizing content or concept testing, we find that the best results of in-person or remote testing come from people who are actually going to be interested in using your product. Stay focused on your core demographic and test to that audience. Testing random subjects that will never use or engage in your product may not always produce the most effective result in the long run.

Define the Product Goals

The first step to conduct with your client is to define the product goals. This is key for a results driven process. This may seem like a no-brainer but a strong concept with clearly defined requirements can keep your team focused, cut down on debate time and keep everyone energized. Typically there are three types of product goals: creating an addiction/habit, meeting a certain business structure or owning an experience.

Tree Testing & Card Sorting

Tree Testing allows you to see how well users will interact with and find elements in a website or application’s hierarchy. It reveals whether the information architecture is easy to understand and can help with naming conventions that make sense to the user. This is extremely beneficial if the client insists on creating clever or unique navigational titles. Within tree testing, the user is given questions and looks for items in established categories, similar to actual browsing behavior. This can dramatically improve the navigation or taxonomy. Card sorting allows users to organize items into groups and then categorize and label the groups.

Optimal Workshop is a great platform to test both tree testing & card sorting.

Best UX User Testing

In Person Focus Groups

Testing concepts, content, experience and design may be the most effective solution in-person, but it also can be the most time consuming and expensive route to go. To actually watch someone use your product and see their immediate emotional reactions can be something that you miss from remote user testing. To produce the best results, the interviewer must not be biased to your product or the user have any background information before the testing session. This way no party is being swayed to certain opinions as they use your product for the first time and can honestly react.

For smaller companies that cannot seek a 3rd party testing vendor, Craigslist can be a good option to round up your specific demographic to participate in a user testing group. This can get tedious on your own however and can be very time consuming. The most effective methods are those that allow you watch and interview real users while they interact with your product or service. Focus groups allow you to extensively see a group of users interacting with each other to discuss an idea or a concept. This can lead to new levels of inspiration as you will gain more insight from the ideas of the group.

Remote Focus Groups

With the advancement of online testing resources, this can prove to be the most cost and time effective solution for start-ups or smaller agencies on tight budgets. Remote testing allows you to conduct testing from the comfort of your own desk, by computer or telephone. This can also be implemented throughout the whole process of development, from beginning to end.

User Testing is a great option as it records a video showing the user as they use your site/app and captures their thoughts and touchpoint as they interact with it. You pick the core target audience and assign the user a task to perform that can be run on desktop, tablet or mobile device. You can hear the tone in their voice as you watch the ease or struggle while they navigate. The only downside to this may be that the users thought process might not seem as clear as it would in-person.

Lean User Testing MJD

Google Analytics & A/B Testing

A great way to keep on testing, refining and making your product better is to gather analytics and re-asses user pain points. Then create A/B versions to test against each other and gather new analytics on how to improve your product. To put your design to the test you’ll need to subject it to actual website traffic by randomly assigning visitors one of two design options (A & B) To determine these differences you need to test each design. Tracking how customers are using the interface is detrimental to a product’s ongoing success. You can get metrics that track Call to Action clicks, high exit paths and generate funnels to see how long customers engage.

Another option with even more power than Google A/B Testing is Optimizely.

User Testing Best Practices

There are currently a great number of online & in person testing facilities and sites that offer many  other options that we have not touched upon. As UX strives to simplify, testing can be done simply as long as the right goals and structure are setup initially and a clear goal is set. If the testing becomes too complex and drawn out then the product has become too complex.

Lean UX User Testing

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