What Is User Testing and Why Is It Important?
Doing user tests of a pre-release or updated version of any app is a way to understand and improve your product. By thoroughly testing your user experience, you can optimize your app’s user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) to increase adoption and engagement. UX/UI design is a combination of aesthetic and technical elements. There are multiple steps to conducting a user test, such as:
- Identifying potential users, ensuring they meet your ideal user persona
- Arranging the test
- Asking testers the right, unbiased questions to make sure you get actionable results
- Implementing the necessary changes
There are several tools that can streamline the user testing process, including platforms to crowdsource testers, automation options for performing basic QA, and more. In this post, we’ll go over the basic elements of successful user tests, different ways to go about testing, and how to get the best information out of your testing group.
Why conduct user tests?
Just because an app works doesn’t mean it’s a fully optimized experience. It’s important for an app to be both user-friendly and technically sound. A lot of early testing for your app might focus on finding runtime errors and data handling bugs. Fortunately, there are several tools available for automating that process, such as the Selenium frameworks Selendroid and Appium, Google Firebase, and the open-source Xamarin-based Calabash. Using one of these tools for basic testing leaves more time to perform user tests that reveal critical and qualitative information that can make or break a product launch. User testers can provide insight that developers and automated tools might miss, like a user interface glitch, or an inconvenient workflow. In addition to testing products before launch, user testing is essential for making updates and improvements. By consistently receiving user feedback, you can plan updates and add features that will improve your product. Testing is an essential part of any product development cycle; if you’re building your app through an agency, make sure it’s included with their design and development service, or plan your own.
How to perform user tests?
The specific details of each user test vary depending on the nature of the app and what information you’re looking for. A general rule is that each tester should have between 30 minutes to an hour for a tester to explore the product, make observations, and answer any questions that you might pose. Research suggests that testing bases do not need to be exhaustive, and you can get strong insights from just a few user tests (see graph below).
The goals of user tests depend on what phase your product is in. If it’s complete, published and you’re looking for improvements, a quantitative attitude survey can show you where the product team’s focus should be for future improvements. Before launch, it’s probably useful to conduct some interviews with your target user base to make sure the app is meeting their needs.
Different types of testing
One popular form of testing requires the product team to provide an assignment for a tester – a specific task that one could accomplish with the app – then get feedback based on how effective the software is in completing the assignment. This process helps product teams focus on optimizing specific functions, which can be helpful in creating an effective development operations paradigm as an app is improved. An illustrative case might be that your app lets users book appointments for an in-person service; you would ask a tester to book an appointment for February 5th at 3:30 PM in a particular location. You would then ask specific questions about the process and incorporate the feedback into your team’s overall digital product strategy. A second common user testing strategy revolves around gathering quantitative data that can be used for more complex analysis. Usually, these involve allowing your user to use the product for a period of time, then posing straightforward questions with multiple choice or true/false answers. You can get this data from an online user survey, which is easier than setting up a moderated user test, and often yield large quantities of data that can be exported to an analytics package to reveal users’ attitudes toward the app. Survey-style testing also frequently includes some demographic questions so you can learn more about your app’s user base and how to better serve their needs.
How can I ask questions to get the best results?
Ideally, the questions that you pose in your user test will be objective and phrased in a way that do not lead the user in a specific direction. For example, rather than asking them if they were able to accomplish a specific task, you can ask what a tester likes or dislikes about a particular feature or routine within an app. Another popular open-ended questioning strategy is to ask a “what” question followed by a “why.” When a user completes a task, you might ask them what their first step was, and why they made that choice. For effective tests, you’ll want to avoid asking users negative questions. Don’t expect testers to explain why they didn’t take a particular approach or use a certain feature, instead, focus on the processes they did use to gain specific insight about those elements. Binary choice questions are a strong way to get highly specific information about particular features, and can be phrased strategically to encourage thoughtful responses. One useful data-oriented approach involves asking users to rate ease-of-use on a scale from one to seven. With enough data, any UX flaws in your product will become apparent at the troughs in ratings. Finding out if users are satisfied with an element of an app or not is a simple means for establishing post-launch update priorities, and it’s easy to get responses to simplified questions. A more detailed guide is available from the aptly named testing industry leader UserTesting.
Finding the Right Testers
Naturally, the feedback you get from user testing depends a lot on who does the test. Opening up a survey to your whole user base puts your data at risk for inconsistency and high variance, which can sometimes make it hard to get decent information – and hardly counts as a rigorous user test. Additionally, you may not want to make existing customers aware of a feature before it is perfected, which would encourage you to recruit testers instead of tapping your existing user base. Setting up an organized test is the best way to go about user testing – developers and designers can research and pose strategic questions, find interested and qualified testers, and get better data for improving the product. Most testers are found through web platforms, which offer different levels of testing service from experienced, registered members. Some of our preferred platforms include UserTesting, Lookback, and TryMyUI, each of which provides different testing services at competitive rates.
- UserTesting is the largest service for crowdsourcing seasoned mobile and web software testers. It’s regularly used at enterprise scale and offers an extensive range of features for getting the best feedback on your app. Their services include live video conferencing, screen sharing, analytics options, and more.
- The Lookback platform focuses mostly on live interviews, and lets testers conduct self-tests while answering predetermined interview questions. Lookback is a strong choice if you’re focused on qualitative observations and won’t rely as much on analytics for your testing phase.
- TryMyUI also specializes in video interviews; however, they mostly provide unmoderated tester recordings. Their service is much less expensive per interview than moderated services, and can still provide plenty of actionable intelligence.
A more comprehensive list of the top user testing platforms is available through the UI/UX blog Creative Bloq.
If you’re interested in learning some best practices in UX/UI for your application, check out this article on the 5 steps to an incredible mobile UX/UI strategy.