The Importance of User Testing Sessions

User Testing

Your team has spent months developing a digital product for a client and now it is in the final stages. It looks great, it’s easy to use and everything is where it should be. After high fiving your developers the next step is to test it out on the audience and set up a user testing session.

User testing is an important part of project development, particularly for digital products, such as websites and apps. It gives you a chance to test your final products functionality and resolve any technical problems that you’ve missed. It also lets the user preview our software/application or website before it goes live and give you their honest opinions. The results are very valuable and determine how much more work may need to be done before presenting it to the world.

Benefits of user testing

There are many benefits to conducting user testing sessions, the main one is using the constructive feedback from users to fine tune your product.

By observing a real user journey you can record any issues/problems encountered. These can include difficulties with navigation, trouble finding certain data or content, simple features (such as scrolling) not visible enough, etc. This evidence is particularly useful for the developers to refer to when making changes to the product.

User testing is a key part of Mashbo’s project development service. We work with our team, the client and the users to build a product people love to use, user testing is a key part of this process.

Picking the right people

You don’t want just anyone testing the product, ideally you want to use your target audience.

You should use your few first meetings as opportunities to learn more about the business so ask the client plenty of questions. You can then help them establish a target audience for the product.

To get the most effective results these are the people you need for your user testing sessions. We have found from past sessions that people really appreciate being involved, they feel that the company is listening to them and values their opinions.

Making the user comfortable

It is very important that the user feels comfortable during the test. We welcome visitors to our office by offering them a drink and having a chat, this informal environment helps them feel at ease even before the test. This also encourages them to be more honest when giving you feedback.

During the test do not put pressure on the user or make them feel stupid if they can’t do one of the tasks you have set. Some users will apologise for this but reassure them that they are not at fault, you’re testing the website not the user. Asking the right questions

When putting together questions or tasks for your user testing session we recommend starting off simple so the user can become familiar with the site. We also recommend ending the session this way too, save the harder questions for the middle of the test. Although these may be more specific and difficult to find they will provide more specific results.

In our recent user testing sessions we felt we threw our users in at the deep end by asking them to find very exact points from the beginning, when we added some easier tasks we found they fared better with the more complex ones.

Once you have your questions ready, send them over to the stakeholder group to read through and get their feedback. They may ask to make some changes or want the user to look for something specific. It’s best to do this early on so you don’t have to waste time editing them on the day of the test. Once you have their approval, print off a few copies of the questions so the user can refer to them when they are taking the test (we found this was really handy!).

User testing set up

For our work with Plus Dane we used a laptop with a webcam to record the user’s reactions. It is vital that you let them know they will be filmed. Before the test you must ask for their permission to be filmed even the footage is just for your team’s use. Some people simply don’t like being in front of a camera but hopefully you have built up enough trust that they won’t object. If they don’t give their consent simply turn off the webcam and record their actions on screen using software such as OBS Studio. This is still an effective way to get results and you are respecting their decision.

Observing users during the test is very insightful as you can read their facial expressions to see at what points they get frustrated, confused, etc (even if they don’t tell you themselves!).

By using the webcam and recording software (here we’ve used OBS Studio) your video footage should look like this:

Screenshot of user testing recording

Results

Once the user testing sessions are complete you should review the footage and collate your findings into a report. Discuss the results with your developers and they can begin to work on resolving any technical or design problems. Fine tune everything and you can present a much better quality product.

You should use your report as evidence to convince the client that your suggested changes will not only let the user have a smoother experience but can also increase revenue. Every issue raised in the testing (no matter how big or small) has to be taken into account, particularly any recurring issues. Without user testing the client (and yourself) may not realise that these problems are costing them money. So although there is an upfront cost to run user testing sessions and resolve issues, it is highly beneficial in the long term. These sessions are not just about improving user experience but also increasing the client’s bottom line.

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