User testing a new product – top tips for success

Duel’s Content & Brand Champion Jon Aitken gives us his tips on how to successfully user test a new product.  

User testing is incredibly important; it’s the point in a creative process that you find out whether the product you’ve dreamed up actually works in the way you think it does.

We’ve been user testing our new competitive photo-sharing app Duel over the last month. We began with presenting simple wireframes and are now giving people the chance to try out the (mostly) working app. We believed it was vital to get users trying it from the very beginning as already the results from the initial testing have dictated the direction of further design.

Key things to think about when user testing:

  1. Find some people who aren’t invested in the product (literally or emotionally.)

Getting some people in who aren’t family or friends means they don’t feel pressured to be nice about your product and hurting your feelings. Take into account if they’ve come into contact with the product before at any stage – some of our testers were involved in our focus groups at the very beginning of creating Duel, so they knew the concept and could reflect on how it’s progressed, others had no idea what it was about.

  1. Create the right environment.

We do all of our user testing in a small boardroom located within the Pervasive Media Studio, where we’re based. The room is plain, and the whole setting is reasonably informal. We want our testers to be relaxed but still recognise that they’re there to do a job. Usually we offer some food and drink to the group because, again, this puts people at ease.

  1. Get the right person to lead the session.

Duel is primarily aimed at the 17-25 age bracket and so we try to get testers in who fit within those ages; we’ve found that having someone roughly their own age to present the product and test session means the testers feel far more comfortable than they would with someone much older. Also, think about the session leader’s relationship to the product: are testers more likely to be honest to an intern at the company or to the entrepreneur who treats the product like it’s their firstborn?

  1. Introducing the product.

Throughout user testing Duel has been in various stages of completion; the first time we got people to play with it their experience was limited to about two screens. It was still really useful for us to have people testing at this point, but there was a certain level of preparation required so people weren’t disappointed by how little they could actually do on it. It’s also important to avoid over-selling the product – they’re not your investors. Give them the information they need so they can give you decent feedback and not feel pressured into telling you what they think you want to hear.

  1. Record everything.

Duel is a phone app, so the biggest thing for us has been seeing how people engage with it on the phone screen itself. Setting up a simple webcam to capture where the user naturally goes to tap, swipe or expects there to be a button has been very revealing and helpful in our design process. We ask users to vocalise their actions as they navigate, which is also recorded by the webcam. Additionally, the person leading the session will be taking key notes that they may ask the tester to clarify, or to reflect upon afterwards.

 User testing isn’t hard, it just needs to reflect the product and the stage it’s at. You can ask people to follow precise instructions or give them free reign – we do both and either can produce useful results.

Getting people on board at this stage is exciting: you get to finally show your product to some potential customers and they get to brag about being the first people to try it out, ever. If it’s great, they might even tell their friends: win win!