Testing-one-two: Get the most out of your user testing

In UX-designer María Maurstad Ævarsdóttir’s experience, you can never be over-prepared when doing user testing. You should even test your own test! This is her step-by-step guide to success.

“One thing is common for all user research: even though the basic methods are easy if you jump into a study without proper preparation, you won’t get nearly as high a return on your research investment,” says Maria, quoting the renowned UX expert Hoa Loranger.

With 9 years of experience as a UX designer, now working at the design company Inventas, Maria firmly believes in thoroughly testing your product or solution.

“You should do it right away, and continuously throughout your design- and development process. You can test an idea, a sketch, or a digital or physical product. It doesn’t always have to be done in a formal way, but when testing on real users it pays off to spend a little more time on the preparation and planning,” says Maria.

Maria divides the planning into “before” and “after” the actual test:

Before the test:

  1. 1. Set goals
    Before you start planning the test, think about why you are testing. Write down what you want to find out. Then write down your wanted outcome. How do you expect your product or solution to work?

  2. 2. Pick your users
    Decide what target group(s) you are testing and determine the number of testers in each group. A minimum of 5 people in total is recommended. But if you are testing multiple user groups, make sure you are testing 2-5 people from each user group. Remember: Don’t test on people you know.

  3. 3. Make a test plan
    Plan the logistics such as time, location and tools needed, then write an introduction so everyone gets the same information. Define the criteria for passing the test (tasks completed, number of clicks, time to complete, satisfaction etc.). Remember: performance and satisfaction are different usability metrics.

  4. 4. Make an observation form
    Invite your team to observe the tests and make them take notes in the same form. Give them information about the task, its reason, and the criteria for passing. Make sure they all observe more than one test.

  5. 5. Test the test
    User testing takes time and planning, so don’t waste your first tester on a flawed test. Checking your introduction and questions will ensure it is understandable, takes the wanted amount of time and answers your goals.

After the test:

  1. 1. Summarize
    Don’t put this off! Summarize each test right after it is done. What are the main findings, including pain points, possibilities, and positives? Remembering who said or did what will get harder after a couple of tests.

  2. 2. Compare feedback
    Look at your main findings from each test. Is something repeating? Let repeating pain points take top priority and avoid relying on the feedback of only one person.

  3. 3. Document
    Document the process by saving your goals, plans, forms, questions, and feedback.
    This will save time in planning future tests and give new team members a valuable understanding of past decisions.

  4. 4. Update
    Look at the parts of your product that are not meeting your goals and adjust accordingly.

María Maurstad Ævarsdóttir and Carl Ivarsson from Inventas guested Oslo Science Park in September 2023 and gave a free lunch talk on the subject “Navigating User Insights and Business Needs”. Interested in more talks and events at Oslo Science Park? See our event calendar.


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