User Testing/ Validation

The goal of user testing/validation is to understand how users experience certain products or services. The usability of products and services can be validated at any stage in the design process. This method can be particularly useful to evaluate usability of concepts, prototypes, physical or software products and service offerings of an organization.

Quick details: User Testing/ Validation

Structure: Structured

Preparation: Test environment, Test subject, Respondent recruitment, Recording tools

Deliverables: Recordings, Transcripts, Notes, Documentation, Charts

More about User Testing/ Validation

The primary questions that user-testing answers is whether the user encounters any issues when interacting with an unfinished or finished product or service; what is the utility the user sees in the product or service; is the user journey smooth or full of disruptions, does the product or service fill any need-gap for the users, etc.

User testing is a great way of getting user feedback firsthand and allows the researcher to take quick action to improve.

User testing can be split based on the stage in the project when it is conducted – Discovery Stage testing, User Research Stage testing, and Strategy & design Stage testing

Discovery StageTo determine where effort should be focused.
  • Allows testing a new idea or concept.
  • Helps compare with competitive products and services in the market.
Time spent could be on a lot of pointless and regular ideas which shouldn’t be pursued.
Concept stageUnconventional user research.User testing at this stage can provide a quick and easy way to place an existing product in front of a wide range of possible user types.
  • Difficulties of ensuring greater depth for the research.
  • The problem of the ‘first choice selection’ i.e. the respondents may not take the survey with complete authenticity and attention.
  • With the large amount of data collected, the process of data analysis is time consuming.
Strategy & Design StageTo test prototypes and complex flows.
  • Helps determine the strategic direction.
  • Actual user validation happens at this stage.
Incorporating solutions or design changes at this stage could be time consuming and would require an overhaul of existing design.


Advantages of User Testing/ Validation

1. Feedback

Getting feedback helps designers validate their efforts on a project.

2. Next Steps

Data collected can guide the next steps to be taken to improve the product or service.

3. Benchmark against existing products

Data collected can help evaluating the product features or the service being offered against similar and competitive offerings in the market.

4. Identify missed issues

Issues that may have been missed during the other stages of the project can be captured through user testing.

5. Online Tools

Through online tools a large sample can be considered for user testing. The data gathered can also be analyzed quickly and with relative ease.


Disadvantages of User Testing/ Validation

1. User time commitment

If the users do not give sufficient time for feedback or to test, then the system or product can be off from what the user requirement is.

2. Scope of the project

If the scope of the project is large, then user testing may result in large amount of diverse data may be difficult to collate and analyze.

Think Design's recommendation

Let’s say this with conviction: No design project is complete without user validation. Without employing this in at least one of your steps, you would be running a very high risk of poor adoption or complete rejection. However, when to employ this method and how is a more important question here. We will point to three broad areas here:

User Testing before design

Do this if you want users to respond to your ideas, concepts or your assumption of gaps. In many cases, it is also employed while redesigning a product/ service in order to set a baseline before redesign.

User Testing during design

Do this if you want to test your design before investing on building your design… or you want one of the alternatives chosen by user validation. Play with various fidelities as per your objectives.

User Testing post design

Do this if you want to find users’ response to finished design; and those responses are intended to guide your refinements or next build. If you already conducted baseline research, testing at this stage will help in benchmarking baseline and assessing the results of redesign against baseline benchmarks.

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