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User Testing

What is user testing

Users tests are not all about one-way mirrors and eye-tracking sessions. User Testing (aka Usability Testing or UT) is a scientific approach for evaluating the product directly by end users. It provides with a set of techniques and tools to help validate the product or application. UT is aimed at understanding the performance of users with the product and not just their preferences or wishes. It is a closed-ended approach, focused on understanding users' perspective. There will be a set of pre-defined areas on which we get the information. Texavi's trained and expert moderators help ensure that the test is done the right way to get the required data in the right time, to help improve the product.

User Testing

Why user testing

Most often, we tend to develop products and applications based on the understanding we have of the business, domain, technology and users' needs. However, this might not reflect the reality and could potentially lead into an area of too many unknowns. What we think the users want could be different from what they really need. The true litmus test for any product is how it performs when it reaches the users.

User testing helps us get the products evaluated by the actual users. The benefit this offers is the visibility and validation we get about the product's performance. User tests also throw early warnings about some potential pitfalls and errors in the product. The usability test results in a product that meets the user's needs more closely and one that gives the product owners more confidence about its success. In a nutshell, conducting a usability test is like making your product 'road-worthy'.

Who conducts user tests

User tests are administered by our trained and expert moderators. There are three different roles in typical user testing session.

  1. Participant - only one participant per user interview
  2. Moderator - conducts the interview
  3. Observer(s) - at least one observer

Moderators are trained and experienced in conducting these sessions. They use the different techniques such as relationship -building and test protocol to conduct the test. There can be more than one observer in each test. The observer helps in taking notes of the test and helping the moderator in conducting the session. Observers from the client organization participate in the tests as silent observers, mostly behind the scenes in the one-way mirror tests.

When to conduct user tests

User tests need to conducted at various stages in the product development to ensure that we get the timely feedback essential for improvement. User's evaluation should be done all through the stages of the product as it gets developed, till the time it is ready for final delivery and deployment. Formative testing is done as the product takes a shape, starting from wireframes, prototype, module of the product. This would help in understanding the various elements of user experience such as interaction, presentation, navigation, functionality and content organization. Summative testing is conducted on a finished product to understand users' satisfaction and overall impression about the product. As with all other types of testing, Texavi's mantra is "test early, test often, and test more"!

How to conduct user testing

Conducted as individual one-to-one sessions, as opposed to the other studies and tests which involves multiple participants in a session. During these tests, different techniques, tools and methods are used, based on the need. Some of the more popular tests administered during a typical user testing session are:

  • Free-wheeling exploration
  • Word association and card sorting
  • Task performance
  • Satisfaction survey

We can use video recording (with the permission of participants) and audio recording of the test sessions. Texavi used tools and products such as Camtasia , Morae for the recording and screen-capturing of the products.