The Quick & Simple Guide to Starting User-Testing for Startups

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Usability testing. It’s quite a scary word, isn’t it? This was also what the small team of Speek, the conference call solution startup, had thought. However, they decided to take the plunge and discover what are some of their users’ worst issues with the web and mobile interfaces. Result? After they’ve implemented the fixes, they saw a staggering 60% jump in registrations on their website.

user testing startup

Evernote is also a firm believer in lean user testing methodologies. They saw a 15% increase in user retention by investing time into user testing.

user surveys evernote

Usability testing is an essential part of every lean startup owner’s toolbox. Testing early and often is the only way of avoiding wasting time and resources on concepts and designs that will never work. But where do you even start?

1. How To Recruit Usability Testers?

Well, first of all, you’ll need to find people who are in your target audience. This is very important — your friends and family may not be a part of this group, so you’ll need to pay close attention to find just the right people.

If you think you can’t be bothered with this process, think about it — if you can’t find usability testers, how will you find real customers?

Fortunately, you only need 5 people who will reveal about 85% of all usability problems. It shouldn’t be too hard finding 5 people from your target audience.

Think about where your audience usually hangs out. Here are a couple of ideas:

  1. Say your target audience are WordPress theme designers. I’d look for Facebook groups about the topic and try to approach people there. You can even use Facebook ads for this purpose.
  2. Target audience is very general, but in a certain age range. Just going out on the street and finding people with some idle time on their hands. Why not go to a local laundromat or a train station and engage with people there?
  3. You can even use services like this one, just keep in mind that they may not be able to find the best fit for your product.
  4. Use services like Fiverr or Craigslist to locate people from your audience and get them to help you.

What Incentives You Can Offer On a Budget

To motivate people, it’s a good idea to offer them a small gift for their help. It doesn’t have to be much — you can try iTunes or Amazon giftcards, free coffee, a pack of cookies, or similar. Here’s an example from Mallzee:

We therefore looked for an incentive that would fit into their lifestyle. Ultimately we got in touch with a trendy 1930’s cinema we had previously worked with and struck up a deal for cinema tickets in exchange for free promotion of their business on our blog and twitter. source

2. Planning Out the Interview

Before inviting people to your testing, you’ll need to have a plan on what to ask. The questions should be tasks, rather than asking for opinions. Users generally have no idea what they want, and you shouldn’t ask them to tell you.

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”?—Steve Jobs

You’ll want to give your participants concrete tasks, like “sign up for an account” or “send a newsletter” and let them discover the interface on their own.

Asking about strictly UI specifics, like colors and fonts, is generally not very helpful. Your testing should be focusing on the user experience — don’t make your test subjects do your job. Instead of asking “Where do you think we should place that link?”, ask “Where did you expect to find it?”.

3. Carry Out the Interview

Make sure to let the participants know that you will not be testing their abilities, but the product’s quality. Ask them to be critical about it and state their frustrations.

A single session should be short, 30 minutes to an hour is plenty. Have someone write notes or record what’s being said in the interview. It can be very helpful to also write down a few bullet points after you’re done.

Don’t guide your participants. Have them explore the interface and inteact with it as they see fit. Ask questions like “Why did you click on that button?” or “What did you think it would do?” Ask the participants to narrate their actions as they go.

How To Evaluate Results

Oftentimes, there’s no need for lengthy analysis of the testing; just have everyone on team listen to interview recordings and start thinking about solutions to the problems at hand.

You’ll quickly notice which parts of your product don’t quite make it. Patterns that commonly arise at obvious problems are:

  • user pauses when trying to complete a task,
  • user has to undo an action,
  • test subject expresses frustration (comment, sigh, grumble),
  • subject takes a different route to achieve a goal than expected,
  • user fails to carry out a task.

Psst: read more about how to make your app well-designed here.

Once you’ve located and starting fixing these problems, your product is on the right track. But again, it’s important to prioritize the improvements — start with those that are absolutely necessary, otherwise you might eternity just refining the idea.

A typical startup should carry out a number of tests while the product is being built. First, while you validate ideas. Later, every time you’re not sure about a certain design decision or a big new feature is added, you should consult your users.

Want more? Click here to read how I validated an idea for an app within a single week.

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