Lean user testing

by Tim Brazier
Posted on 23 May 2014
read time: 4 minutes
User testing is a great way of developing any website and Yoomee's made full use of the idea. Getting someone the website's designed for to test it really can have a huge impact on a website's creation, because with the information given by the target audience the site can be further developed around its future users.

This nugget comes straight from Curtis a 13-year-old Sheffield student, who recently helped us test the new vInspired beta website and subsequently wrote up his experiences into a mini blog post.

Curtis and his contemporaries were involved in the third round of user testing we've done for vInspired over the past nine months developing the site, all in the run up to it going fully live.

It's a must

User testing is often seen as optional extra or an expensive luxury on digital projects. But as digital products and tools become part of our everyday lives, our expectations of how they'll work and the way we'll use them increases with every new web or native app released, making user testing a must.

At Yoomee, we encourage our clients to work with the people who are going to use the website at all stages of a project, starting with co-creation workshops to establish what's needed from a site through to ongoing user testing. As a result we have to offer an affordable option for user testing.

We've tried a number of different tools and techniques over the last few years and below I outline a few we've found to be particularly helpful, if what you want is effective, affordable user testing.

Top of the tips

Here's a few pointers to help you get the most out of the time you have with your testers:

  1. Test everything Leave no stone unturned, no matter how perfect and simple you think you've made a user journey (the route someone takes to do something on the site). Test it – real users will tell you if it's as simple as your team thought they'd made it, or just leaves the user scratching their head.
  2. Test things that are broken Even if a feature isn't finished, test it – include broken links and buttons that don't go anywhere. This is your opportunity to find out what your users think will happen when they click on it, before you potentially invest time developing something they don't even want.
  3. Observe with the client This is vital – if user testing is going to become an integral part of the way you develop, then your clients need to see users trying to use their site firsthand and see for themselves that users may be approaching the site from a rather different angle to the one they'd anticipated.
  4. Think about the language Talk to the testers and ask them to think about the language used on the site – for example what does 'Social Action Project' mean? You may find that it means nothing to them, it's entirely self-evident, or even that they're just clicking on something because they think you expect them to.
  5. Keep your test scripts loose Don't spend hours creating detailed test scripts you want the user to follow. Simply list a set of goals users need to achieve and let them find their own way there. This keeps preparation time to a minimum and gives the user the freedom to explore.

Tools:

To keep user testing costs low, we've found these free tools to be invaluable:

  1. Skype Set up the test machine with Skype, call another machine in the adjoining room and screen share from the test machine. Remember to mute what's going on in the observation room! This gives space for observers to see the screen and hear the users' thoughts, without all being in the same room, crowding round and intimidating them. For each tester, ask all the observers to jot down their top three usability issues on a simple paper form.
  2. Reflector is a great tool to use when testing mobile devices. It enables you to display a mobile screen on a full-sized computer screen so those observing get a 'blown up' view of what the user is doing on the mobile device in question.
  3. Sketch notes Rather than simply writing lists of user feedback, sketch out their journey noting their comments at each stage, this way you capture both their positive and negative reactions as they find their way through the site.

Much of our user testing is done with young people and these tips are even more important to observe if you want to keep them at their ease and get the most out of them. Despite belonging to a generation of 'digital natives' they're intimidated by being in an unfamiliar situation and can think you're testing them rather than the website, which is just what user testing isn't about.

Posted on 23 May 2014 - By Tim Brazier
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