User testing is the backbone of a user-centered design process. Without it, a product or feature will likely not be as good as it could or should be. For this reason, it is important to not only do user testing, but to do it properly.
There are some general principles to consider while doing user testing:
- Plan your testing carefully so you can be as efficient as possible.
- Find test participants who represent your users.
- Recruit testers (usually 10 to 40 will yield the answers you need).
- Evaluate and plan for the cost of the test. Remember to balance the cost of the test against the cost of having to redo programming or the PR cost of unhappy customers.
- Define your goals and metrics for test.
- Cultivate an open mind. Do not assume you know the users' needs.
- Collect demographic data on the test participants. At BYU, that may include class year, major, and department. Acquiring demographics will help you gather data from a broad range of testers.
- Avoid introducing bias as much as possible during testing.
- Don’t ask leading questions, but do ask specific questions that will yield the information you need.
- Try not to share your preferences with participants, even if asked.
- Limit testing times to be as short as possible. Choose one feature or topic to test. Don’t attempt to test an entire app or site.
- Choose your testing location carefully. Testing in a controlled lab room could be good, but testing your product where the user works can expand your perspective on what the user needs.
- Thank participants for their time in some way.
This is not a comprehensive list, but it should should initiate thoughts about what will help your users the most. In the end, that is what really matters: giving your users a better experience with your product.
Affairs, Assistant Secretary for Public. “Planning a Usability Test.” Usability.gov, Department of Health and Human Services, 18 Sept. 2013, www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/planning-usability-testing.html.