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My team at Designli has led the design and launch of over 100 software products. This has brought us to understand — through quite a bit of trial and error, to be frank — the importance of fielding feedback early and often, especially once a visual and navigable product demo is available to test out assumptions on real future users.
Let’s look at how entrepreneurs can increase the chances that their product launch is met with a warm reception from users.
What are the limitations of pre-prototype user input?
User surveys and interviews can shed some light on what’s necessary for a good user experience, but humans are notoriously bad at predicting their future behavior. After all, we think we want things we really don’t. We assume we’ll act a certain way if particular conditions are met, but then we don’t. And we forget what’s really important. For this reason, while surveys and interviews do provide important and necessary information (especially related to specific use cases), product developers can’t rely on surveys and interviews alone.
I believe that insights from behavioral psychology are a more reliable way to predict user behavior. Science has shown that people reliably behave in certain ways, and product developers can take advantage of that knowledge to build products in line with these insights. But again, behavioral design isn’t a cure-all. While it provides solid overall guidance on how to direct user behavior, it can’t tell you absolutely everything you need to know about how your users will interact with your product.
Why user testing?
These techniques do offer essential insights that are necessary to design a good product that will resonate with users. They form a strong foundation for a product prototype. But once the prototype is built, product developers need to conduct user testing to see if their hypotheses were correct and to learn how the product could be improved for better adoption.
In my experience, surveys, interviews and behavioral design will get you 80% of the way to a product that users will love. But user testing is necessary to get you the rest of the way there. With testing, you can test specific user flows and watch how users interact with the product in real time.
A vast majority of the time, tweaks to the user flow or product functionality are made at this stage, when it’s more cost effective to modify the design prior to plunging into development.
How can you get maximum benefit from user testing?
Once you’re convinced you need user testing, the next question is how to go about it. There are two primary things that you’ll need to do in order to get the most from user testing: create personas and decide what to test.
1. Create personas.
There’s no such thing as the user. Every product will have a variety of user types who interact with the product in different ways and use the product for different things. To ensure you don’t neglect the needs and desires of a portion of your users, it’s helpful to create personas. Personas, which are composite representations of your various user groups, allow you to visualize and understand each group in a fuller way. Each persona will have traits, a personal history, goals and specific expectations for your product.
To craft your personas, use the information and insights you gleaned from the surveys and interviews you conducted prior to building your prototype. Be sure that you base your personas on real, actual data that comes directly from your users — not on your assumptions about your users. Assumptions can be wrong.
Your personas will inform who you ask to participate in your user testing. Gather a group of people from each persona type to ensure each type is represented in your testing.
2. Decide what to test.
Any product will have a series of essential functions that users will be performing on a regular basis. You’ll identify what these essential functions are for your product by looking at your personas. What are the requirements each of them has? How will each be using your product, and in what environments?
Create a list of the essential functions that each persona type will be performing. This list will make up your checklist of functions to test. While you can always test additional functions, the functions on this list are top priority.
Are there any other user testing tips to keep in mind?
There are a few more best practices that will help your testing sessions be most productive.
1. Test in the users’ native environments.
Testing is always more accurate if you test in the users’ native environments. Users will be more relaxed. Situations will be truer to real life, and you’ll be able to see factors in the native environment that affect your users’ interactions with your product that you wouldn’t see if you tested elsewhere.
2. Be sure users are relaxed.
If users are uptight, they won’t interact as naturally with the product. Assure users that you’re testing the product, not them or their abilities. Let them know you’ll be recording the sessions so they aren’t taken by surprise.
3. Encourage users to verbally submit feedback during the session.
Getting verbal feedback as a user goes through a testing session is invaluable. Hearing what they like, what’s difficult and other insights will help you iterate a better product.
Most products that fail do so because product developers base their designs on assumptions rather than actual user data. Conducting user testing on a prototype built from insights via user surveys, interviews and behavioral psychology will save significant time and money that would otherwise be spent on redesign.
April 10, 2019 at 09:14AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs