Updated June 20th, 2019

You have a product and your customers will buy it only if it fulfills a need, achieves a goal, or solves a problem. This is why it’s crucial for your business to build products with the end users’ goals in mind. One way to ensure that your product and/or service aligns with your users’ needs is to implement user testing throughout the software development process.

User testing allows users to see if your product is fit for the market. While users test your product, observe their behavior to identify any friction in the user experience. Collect as much user feedback as possible and make modifications and improvements as necessary. Whether you’re designing a corporate website or a custom application, it’s important to understand how users will interact with your application. Tailor your application to their needs and optimize your user experience.

Whether you want to validate your design ideas or collect feedback on the end product, user testing can be conducted regularly throughout the software development process.

User Experience

Why User Testing is Important

It’s easy for your team of designers and developers to miss how a user will see a product when they are so immersed in the design. Unlike your team, a large number of your users will be visiting the site or downloading your application for the very first time. Most likely, they have some sort of pre-existing notion of what your application is and how it can help them. Understanding these personas is essential because it will force you to design what your users need versus what you prefer.

User testing, in essence, reduces the risk of building the wrong product, saving your company time and resources. Without incorporating user testing your product is built upon subjective assumptions by those who are involved in the development process.

You should conduct interviews, focus groups, and user research to uncover details about your target audience. How does your audience think, behave, and respond to specific situations? By recording users’ behaviors and thoughts, you can isolate the app features that users found difficult or confusing to use.

When Should You Conduct User Testing

There’s never a bad time to learn from your users. Your users are a source of truth.

Before diving into the design and development process, it’s important to determine at what point you’d like to conduct user testing. There are a few opportunities throughout a project where you can obtain valuable user feedback. Testing at different phases of a project requires differing methodologies and the end goals vary.

Formative Testing  

Formative testing is conducted before the design phase to help develop an effective user interface design. This type of test is carried out using sketches or paper prototypes for participants to visualize the product. Record the user’s behaviors and actions as they complete the tasks you have instructed.

You should conduct this test when you are looking to gain quick insights on what’s working and what isn’t. The results will typically provide qualitative data on user’s thought processes, emotions, and confusions.

Summative Testing

Summative testing is usually conducted with an end product, although it can be tested at different times of the product’s lifecycle to determine the usability of your designs. Instruct your users to complete tasks unassisted and then have them rate their experience. You should measure key factors such as overall satisfaction and ease of use. This will uncover your users’ success rate on achieving the intended goal.

You should implement this type of user testing when you want to capture certain metrics. This is not the best method for quick improvements, rather it’s a longer process used to compare against your competitor’s products. It helps generate a new product report that points out the issues, problems, or benefits of your existing prototype.

User testing is important to determine if your product will be successful.

Important Steps For User Testing

Whether you choose formative or summative evaluations or both forms of testing, it’s important to properly prepare your participants to receive accurate results. Let them know what they will be doing and the purpose for doing it. Remember that these tests are meant to help you identify sections of your app that need to be modified and improved.

Here are a few simple steps to conduct user testing:

  1. Layout your testing zone and make sure that your users are aware that their behaviors and utterances will be recorded.
  2. Avoid having any distractions for the user because you don’t want users focusing on unrelated components instead of the actual design of the product.
  3. Explain the tasks to your users. Keep your instructions simple and have them navigate through the tasks with the common goals of your product in mind.
  4. Be sure to pay attention to body language and encourage them to speak through their thoughts.
  5. Record and gather data while they perform the tasks.
  6. Ask additional questions, such as what their impressions were and what they thought the goal of the product is.  
  7. Analyze your data by summarizing your results and identifying your shortcomings.

Both formative and summative evaluations are effective tests that can provide valuable information about your product throughout the development process. Use formative testing early on in your design phase to understand users’ initial interactions and thought processes. On the other hand, summative testing might be the better choice when you have a complete product to understand how it’s performing.

In other words, if you have faith in your design ideas then you might consider skipping formative evaluations and if you have faith in your execution then you might consider skipping summative evaluations. Find the happy medium and test where and when you think it will drive the most value for your users and business.

One of the many things that separates Seamgen from other design and development companies is our focus on user experience and testing. We begin the design phase once we fully understand who the end users are and their objectives. There’s no guesswork involved. We mitigate the risk of having to make constant and unnecessary revisions, which in the long-run saves our clients’ time and money.

Are you interested in seeing how user testing can enhance your digital experiences? User research and testing is our forte, let us help you. Contact us today by clicking here.