User Testing: A Brief Guide

Nowadays product design methodologies are mainly based on the observation, understanding and analysis of one or several comparable concepts to test and validate hypotheses and minimize the risk that exists while building a product.

We’ve all already learned that the longer we take to test a product, the more expensive it will be to repair mistakes. A test implemented at the right time will provide you with the tools you need to justify future decisions and define the product’s roadmap.

Also, products should stay up to date and be versatile enough to change when needed. Taking into consideration the pace at which the industry moves, this is certainly not an easy thing to do. So, something that definitely helps is continuous testing.

Apart from helping you solve technical and functionality issues and detect strengths and weaknesses of a product, user testings will definitely help you get to know your target in depth. This way you won’t have to limit yourself to a stereotype of an ideal user but actually get to know real ones and how they behave in your market.

Here are some points you might want to consider before diving in a user testing:

Market Fitness

Ensure that the product or new idea is market fit before launching it and also when it’s already functioning. A product might be OK at first and then, after a sudden market change, become old or simply useless. You need to verify constantly the market-product relation. Large companies like Instagram, for example, have changed the entire course of their original ideas to achieve market fit products. You don’t want to get stuck in the past or forget to bare in mind potential competitors.

Main Needs

Identify the main needs or problems the product addresses and the main needs or problems it should address. Also: priorities. You don’t have to solve everything right away, you need to establish priorities. In order to obtain enough feedback, it is key to script the user interviews. By doing this, you won’t get lost or lose focus.

Needs ≠ Wishes

What users say and how they act don’t usually match so you ought to read between the lines and detect their real needs and not what they think they need.

Let Clients Take Part

If you want your clients to accept the changes that arise from a user testing, we recommend inviting them to observe one test with the observers. It is usually revealing and they get to fully understand what’s going on.


Remember: you don’t need to test a real product, it is much less expensive to build a prototype that looks real enough. You’ll reduce costs without giving up valuable feedback.

5-User Testings

Jakob Nilsen, expert on research-based user experience, suggests that the right number of users for a test is 5. He claims that testing a prototype with more users is a waste of resources and time. As you add more and more users, you learn less and less because you will keep seeing the same things again and again.

zero users give zero insights.The most striking truth of the curve is that

Qualitative Interviews

His advice? Carrying out qualitative interviews. What you really need is to get as much feedback you can in order to understand how users behave and what they think.

Document Results

You need to document the results during and after a test. Each and every piece of feedback you collect will be help you build arguments for and against every option you need to consider.

Results will let you discover patterns, coincidences and differences. You’ll also get outliers that you need to save and analyze later since they may hide important information. You’ll also need to check your data with other existing investigations, papers, essays and so on.

Once we go through a user testing, we are ready to pack our new certanities , move forward and raise new hypotheses and theories. You’ll probably have some time to relax but then you should iterate over your process and continue with this cyclical valdation-iteration process. By doing it this way and by shortening the duration of each stage within the project you’ll have the chance to iterate more and refine the ideas and concepts and achieve a successful product.

Do you have any comment? Leave it below! We’d be glad to discuss Sprints with you.

Elevate is a publication by digital product agency Lateral View.

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