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A post by
Ana Pavuna
Q+A SERIES
November 19, 2018

This is how user testing can help your business

This is how user testing can help your business

A post by
Ana Pavuna
November 19, 2018
XX
min read

The value of audience insights to designing outstanding products

User testing is an essential part of our design process at Ostmodern. Not only does it give valuable feedback to validate a design but it also helps us to find new insights into how audiences use the products we develop.

But what exactly is user testing and why should it be consistently practised throughout a product’s life cycle?

What’s the point of user testing?

Fundamentally, user testing allows us to put a product in front of a key stakeholder group: its users. Testing can offer a scientific framework that transforms an idea into a powerful tool.

User testing allows our teams to identify problems with workflows in a product, ambiguity in terminology, and anything that reduces conversion rates. (These can range from a basic misunderstanding, or confusing interactions, to bitter cultural faux pas.)

More importantly, user testing enables us to spot opportunities, validate concepts, and confirm that users enjoy particular journeys. It’s important to remember that user testing is not just about finding negatives but is also about validating existing knowledge and the correct journeys.

In this post, we’ll look at three core reasons why testing can help your business:

  • User test for innovation
  • User test to reach your global audience
  • User test to prioritise, save money, and inform your stakeholders

User test for innovation

Designers often have ideas for original features to make a product stand out from its competitors. With budget being a consideration in every project, however, even original features have to prove themselves to be adding real value to a product.

Testing is notably the best methodology to create ‘delicate’ innovation. It allows a mixture of observational and conversational data which, combined, can teach us important lessons.

In one sports project, for example, we tested an original feature with multiple live streams, where notifications alert users to action happening on other streams. People intuitively understood the feature and its innate value but kept describing a ‘fear of missing out’ given that they had so many different streams available.

We quickly realised that the designs needed to allow some breathing space for users not to feel ‘cognitively overwhelmed’ by information overload.

User test to reach your global audience

User testing validates and re-evaluates previous research, which is essential because all audiences keep changing at the same time as technology, economies and behaviours evolve.

Chinese football tickets include QR codes. Photo by Wang Xi on Unsplash

Has your audience changed since the interviews you carried out two years ago?

Are all the audience mindsets still relevant in today’s technological and cultural context?

Often, we discover that people no longer have the same interest they had for a product, or that their requirements have changed.

In one case, we observed drop-offs on a particular product feature which allowed users to follow their favourite sport. After testing it with a set of fans, we realised that, because the sport’s rules had evolved over the past year or so, fans were suddenly following the sport differently as new elements were now at stake. As a result, the feature had to be adapted to meet their needs.

User testing the feature allowed us to discover the reasoning behind the original drop-off but also observe where, in the product, users were now expecting these different needs to be fulfilled. As a consequence, we were able to find a solution quickly and manage the drop-off.

How users followed football 10 years ago versus now is very different. Photo by Thomas Serer on Unsplash

User test to prioritise, save money, and inform your stakeholders

Too often, user testing has been reduced merely to observing users go through a single uneventful digital journey. Although in its basic form testing is exactly this, there is much more to take into consideration before testing a journey.

At Ostmodern, we have helped clients create testing scripts for their prototype, but more often, we advise on the setup of the prototype itself.

There are many factors that affect a user’s experience. From the smallest iconography to page ergonomics, everything within a journey should help a user achieve a particular goal or convey a specific piece of information.

This goal can usually be solved in many different ways, some of which might appear to be technically more challenging or cost more initially. Businesses sometimes favour testing only one route for these reasons but this can be a problematic, short-term view.

Testing more than one avenue brings immense perks. First, the cost of creating two prototypes can actually be very little in comparison to building any one route — especially if that chosen route is found not to be feasible or impractical later in the process.

Also, it is important to consider the long-term running costs of a product together with the initial outlay: user testing can make an important contribution to understanding this.

Second, A/B testing two definitive routes will allow you to prioritise clearly, refine, and prove the value of each of the functions within those routes to the project stakeholders.

By taking this approach, we have found that we have been able to improve user journeys and experiences — all while making easy changes to the product at a low cost — but also help clients gather empirical evidence to prioritise outcomes and functionality within their roadmap.

A statement we have come to find useful, and which we often say to ourselves is this:

Don’t be afraid to test dichotomies in your ideas. This is how you’ll find the most interesting insights.

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