Y'know, there's a lot of things a new UXer has on their plate, and as a fresh designer, the number of tasks can seem insurmountable.
How the hell am I going to interview people, find a problem worth addressing, come up with ideas, create wireframes, muck around in Figma (if you're like me, for far too long, getting it juuuuuuuust right.) and then test some more? And what kind of test?! Am I doing this right?!
By this time you might be ready to call it a day and start putting together that case study. But hold up there partner! Just because you're done, doesn't mean you're... DONE.
Now that your idea has shape, you gotta test that bad boy. What kind of test? Do I just give it to someone and ask if it looks pretty? What's the aim here? Do I need to buy a webcam/projector/eye-tracking software/neuroimaging helmet/clairvoyant?
I'm going to show you a super easy, D.I.Y, beginner-friendly way to test your designs and get you the feedback you need to improve your work for the better.
What you'll need:
Your prototype (This can be at any stage, lo-fi, hi-fi, wi-fi, sci-fi)
3-5 Participants (5 is the magic number, but at the end of the day, testing with 2 is better than none)
Pen and paper (for notes)
Sticky notes in 4-5 different colours (Optional)
Part 1: Recruitment
Great job, you've been working over a problem for a while, you've defined it, you've created a functioning prototype. But now we're gonna test it with REAL, flesh and blood people. We're designing for other people here, not us, and to truly understand if we are improving a product/service we need to get it into the hands of the people we are designing for.
Check this video from NNgroup, who does a much better job than I ever will on they why:
First, start sending out the message to friends, family and extended relations for some User Testing. The most important thing is that your users are to be representative of the potential users of the product, but they do not need to be exact, people in adjacent situations may also be helpful. You will likely have a good idea of your target audience from the personas and earlier research that you have conducted. Call in favours, ask friends out for a coffee and do a bit of user testing, if you're a beginner you likely cannot afford to do testing where you are handing out $100 Amazon gift cards. But I cannot stress enough that the people you test must be representative of your users. There is no point testing an app built for teens with someone in their middle age, it will not be helpful information.
You've got 5 people booked? Great.
Part 2: Planning
You've asked 5 people for their time to help you with some testing. Do not waste their time. You have to prep for this sort of thing.
Define what needs to be tested. What particular flows need to be looked at? What's most important in the function of your product? What are you unsure about? You should look at 4 or 5 tasks that you'd like to test with a user (eg. Onboarding flows, creating an account, completing a purchase etc.)
Define how you are going to test. This depends on your design and situation. Is this a prototype of a website? Then you can test using the Figma (or whatever program you are using) prototype either in person or remote. Maybe it's a mobile prototype. You can test this on-screen or via the share prototype function to a mobile device.
Create an agenda for the day/time of testing. Outline for yourself how your testing schedule will go, even if it is a half-hour testing session, writing down an agenda will mean that you have a structure to follow and fall back on if things veer off track.
Create documentation: You're going to all this trouble to test, you've gotta be ready for notes. Create a space where you can put the users' info and the contents of your testing session. You can do this in Word, or a spreadsheet, really whatever you are most comfortable with. You'll want to get basic information like names, demographics and their past experiences with similar products.
Create schedules for yourself: This is so you get all of your ducks in a row and lets you focus on the testing. I like to use Notion to plan, adding in my participants' details, times and completion of testing. But you can do this in anything.
Create a script for the testing session: Now I know we all think we can adlib like pros, but, if you are new to this, you should write a script and have a printed out version nearby to fall back on. The scripts I have written tend to use the 5 act structure that I have ripped straight out of the Sprint book:
Check this great breakdown of the 5 act structure:
- A friendly welcome: This starts the interview and begins breaking the ice.
- A series of general, open-ended context questions about the customer. This is a great way to lead into the interview, but also, I use this to gather more information. "Have you used ___ types of products before? Which ones? Likes/dislikes?"
- Introduction to the prototype. Here you can introduce what the product does and how it sits in the world.
- Detailed tasks to get the customer to react to the prototype. I like to do a "Imagine you are....." situation rather than telling a participant what to do.
- A quick debrief to capture the customer's overarching thoughts and impressions
I won't go deep into the writing of this script as you can take what you need from the video, or I highly recommend Sprint by Jake Knapp.
Part 3: The Interview
Ok, the day is here, you're all set up, you know what you're doing.
This may look different for different situations, I tend to throw my laptop into a bag and meet somewhere with a table where we can talk without a lot of distraction.
You're going to want to record this, if using a prototype that is displayed on a computer screen then feel free to do a screen recording with the mic on. If you are recording someone using a mobile app then this "hug the laptop" technique is super easy:
Or you can simply screen mirror your phone, via quicktime, to your laptop and record screen from there! https://medium.com/@patrickswong/how-to-mirror-your-iphone-with-a-lightning-cable-using-quicktime-in-os-x-yosemite-ace3f40ef483
Side note: Let your participant know that you are recording, it's not a spy operation.
Let the user know that in no way are they being tested, they cannot get anything right or wrong, it is the designs being tested, this will help with their honesty and frank responses.
You can then move through your script asking the questions that need to be asked. There is an art to user testing and it lies in your agreeableness and the types of questions you ask. Like your earlier interviews during the research phase, you want to stay as neutral as possible. Questions such as: "How would you?", "What do you think?" etc are all great. Check this resource from Steve Krug - Things a Therapist Would Say (https://sensible.com/downloads/things-a-therapist-would-say.pdf).
I find myself using lots of broken questions, I'll start the sentence with something like "Ok, so how would you....." and break it off so that the participant then finishes and answers their own question. When in doubt, ask why!
At the end of the tasks feel free to throw in a couple of extra questions to the participant as a part of the debrief. I like to use "If you had 3 wishes for this product, what would they be" or you can try a few others to get an overarching thought on the product.
Thank your participant for doing you a solid, pay for their coffee and continue!
Part 4: Collation
You've got a bunch of recordings and information everywhere, great job, but now you need to sift through and find what is important.
If you are running solo this will come down to you, but if you're working in a group you'll get to sort through with others, you may have even live-streamed to some colleagues and they've already begun sorting through. But for the sake of this post, I'm going to continue with the solo testing situation.
I am a big fan of this technique by Clouston Mahon https://uxdesign.cc/analysing-usability-testing-data-97667ae4999e
In this you take a whiteboard (physical or virtual, either is fine), break the session down into its meaningful tasks, you then play back the recordings and take shorthand notes as you go. You then add all the sticky notes (a different colour for each participant!) to the board and continue to the next recording.
After you've got all the sticky notes up, you can begin grouping them by observation/issue. By doing this you will gain insight into how many people encountered the same obstacle. For example, if 4 of 5 all couldn't understand where to log out, then you may have an issue, but if only 1 had a problem then it may seem to be less of an issue. Doing this will make it obvious where your biggest issues are.
Part 5: Report
Maybe you are doing some work for yourself, or maybe you are doing this work for a company, either way, you're going to want a report that ties everything you've found into an accessible and easy to read the document.
I'm a fan of this article by Matt Isherwood https://uxdesign.cc/how-to-write-a-user-testing-report-that-people-will-actually-read-652d15d2f92e
Whether you are presenting, handing in a report or adding this as a part of a case study, you want to make it as easy as possible for a reader/listener to get the useful information. Sounds familiar, no?
Use something nice and easy like Keynote or Powerpoint. Isherwood breaks it down into:
- Summary of key findings - 1 slide
- Who you tested with - 1 slide
- What the tasks were - 1 slide
- Bugs - 1 slide
- Usability problems - 3-4 slides
- Other feedback - 1-2 slides
- Post test questions - 1-2 slides
Bundle it all up.
If you are presenting to humans (a board etc.) try to keep it quick, the last thing you want is bored people. The PowerPoint presentation format helps to keep it brief.
Part 6: There is no part 6, Well done!
You did it, you little ripper!
User testing takes a bit of time if you're running solo, a couple of days, but in the grand scheme of things, it's not much. That and the information you receive is invaluable. Perhaps it'll only serve to validate your work so far, but perhaps it'll throw a big red flag in front of you. Both of these situations are great and it's all a part of being a designer.
Best of luck with your user testings, I hope they are fruitful and fun! Don't forget, talking to people is great and watching someone play and discover is a joy!
See also this excellent article on Guerilla user testing https://www.uxbooth.com/articles/the-art-of-guerrilla-usability-testing/
And this article on face to face usability testing: