UNDERSTANDING YOUR USERS THROUGH FACILITATED TESTING IS KEY TO YOUR PRODUCT’S SUCCESS
At the end of a long conversation about the how’s and why’s of conducting validation studies, a new client summed it up perfectly with a single question, “What is the risk of not doing validation testing?”
For this client, his number one concern is risk mitigation. Could testing a prototype with real users help increase the likelihood of success and reduce overall risk? How can he ensure he’s building the right thing the first time?
To understand how he came to this question, we must dig a little deeper.
Here’s a rundown of the five W’s (plus How) for validation testing:
Why do validation testing?
Testing with real users helps us find and fix problems now.
How do you execute?
We measure, analyze, and report the findings to inform the design, development, and business decisions.
What does it consist of?
One-on-one sessions with a facilitator guide participants through a series of tasks in a prototype software to understand their goals, experiences, and behaviors.
Who do you test?
We test real users, whether B2B or B2C. We find a variety of people who are most likely to actually use the software.
Where do you test?
Testing can be done in a lab or any office. Sometimes you have to go to where the user is.
When do you test?
Early and often. Don’t wait until the end; testing a mock-up or prototype gives you critical information while it is still actionable.
Putting your software in the hands of real users during testing is like peering into the future. What will they think? Will it help them do what they need? Does it make sense? Is there enough there for them to figure it out?
Testing helps the team know they are building the right thing through techniques designed to reveal how the user thinks. Rather than slowing the project down, testing at a regular cadence can actually speed things up by increasing confidence that the product is going to meet the users’ needs and by preventing costly rework post-launch to address critical, but overlooked, problems.
A researcher can structure the test to measure the behavior of the user, then work with the team to analyze the results. By really listening to the users and gaining empathy for their experience, the research team can find opportunities to not only prevent serious problems, but to create a better experience.
Recommendations for changes come from this period of analysis, after the testing is complete when all the data can be evaluated. The final report is really a story about themes X, Y, and Z, as experienced by the user. This provides the foundation to build on when considering the impact of fixing these issues; will it potentially reduce errors, improve time, increase conversion?
Validation testing helps solves real problems. It allows the team to see if their product really works—it helps fill in the unknowns. By using a combination of qualitative and quantitative techniques, the researcher can present a more complete picture. Over time, the team can build a data resource to analyze the users’ experience in a series of tests over the product’s development life cycle.
Mine for gold – no one says it better than the user. Capturing the voice of the user through quotes, videos, or audio clips gives the team direct access to the user’s experience in a way that is easy to understand and act on quickly. Another way to put it is – show, don’t tell. A 2-minute video clip of a user struggling through a login page is more than enough to convince the team to try something else.
Who? And Where?
It depends on the product, but typically you want real potential users with a range of experiences and backgrounds to give different perspectives. Getting recruiting right gives the results real value. A misfire here can end up wasting everyone’s time.
Testing can take place anywhere, but using a research lab provides a neutral location with all the amenities for the team that might be observing. For internal business projects, it might make sense to go to where the users are; try testing in a private huddle room near their normal work area.
The maxim here is, “early and often.” By intercepting potential problems while the product is still in development, the team can pivot and still have time to retest. Testing with prototypes is an easy way to shortcut development and put realistic-feeling mock-ups in the hands of potential users to get real actionable feedback.
Quickly, validation testing is not:
a training session for new software
a focus group
a marketing opportunity
By conducting facilitated validation tests with real potential users performing tasks, you can identify possible problems, prove what concepts work, and increase confidence and speed in your product’s vision.