User Testing Dos and Don’ts for Your Own Projects

Not every project can afford the luxury of extensive user testing. Often, an entrepreneur has just enough resources to bring their concept to life without a lot of flexibility when it comes to vetting. Even large enterprise projects have tight schedules that trim testing down to the bare minimum.

So, how do you even handle user testing if there’s neither time nor budget to put together a focus group? In this article, we offer up some dos and don’ts for when you find yourself needing feedback, but simply don’t have the resources. These are tips you can use on your own, without any organized testing.

Don’t Ask “So, What Do You Think?”

This is a common cause of headaches when soliciting feedback. The question, “what do you think?” is far too open-ended, and, more importantly, far too subject to personal taste. This line of questioning results in “design by committee.” It’s human nature for people to want in on the creative process, and this is a perfect opportunity for them to start telling you how they would do it.

Do Ask “Does This Accomplish What’s Intended?”

Instead, consider what you’re trying to get across with what you’re showing. In the case of user interface, maybe it’s a mood or spirit you’re trying to convey. For user experience, perhaps it’s an interaction you need feedback on. Ask “does this do X?” The feedback you receive will be limited to whether your project is accomplishing its desired results. If you get criticism, you’ve focused the tester on resolving what might be an actual problem.

Don’t Test Just Anyone

You might be surprised to hear how often people test their projects with teens. “I’ve got a high schooler who’s always on the apps,” is a phrase I’ve heard more than once from someone looking for feedback. The assumption is that they use software, so they must have strong opinions on software interactions. That’s not a correct assumption. “I showed it to my spouse and they didn’t like the purple.” Okay, but does your audience?

Do Test Your Ideal Users

Test with people who reflect your users in some way. You probably know someone who reflects the kind of person who would benefit from your product. Present them a series of focused questions (see the previous “do”), and you’re creating really useful feedback for yourself.

Don’t Just Put It in Their Hands

At the testing phase, you’re likely still working toward a finished product. The prototype is probably adept at illustrating your ideas, but prototypes are often not linear, resulting in dead ends or confusing interactions if you hand it off without context.

Do Provide Guidance in Testing

Explain what the product is and what it does. Let them know what feature they’ll specifically be testing and express intent if features aren’t fully developed. Done correctly, this won’t taint your feedback. It’ll stop your tester from wondering if they’ve done something wrong, or if they’re testing something that’s broken.

Do Ask Rated Questions to Users

Speaking of guidance, we find asking ranked questions help tremendously. You’ve likely answered questions like this before. “Rate on a 1 to 10 scale whether you found something satisfactory, somewhat satisfactory, unsatisfactory, etc.” This is great for feedback especially if you can do this with at least a couple of people. You can directly see what people are responding to and what’s not working. Typeform and Google Surveys both offer the ability to create ranked polling. This also takes influence away from someone with a greater capacity to “talk the talk” than another user. Ranked polling puts them on a level playing field.

Do A-B User Testing If Possible

Lastly, do give options to your tester whenever possible. For UI, maybe you’re showing two different styles. For UX, have two possible flows (even if those are on paper and not prototyped). As a side effect, you’ll eliminate any second-guessing on your part. The primary results will guide you directly into good design decisions.

user testing session at Rocksauce
A small user testing session at Rocksauce Studios.