Quick guide on how to do in-context user testing quickly and cheaply—with no experience required✍️😊
You may be wondering—why does user testing need to be quick?
It doesn’t but it can be. It shouldn’t slow you or your team down in getting to the right solutions either. If you believe iterating, learning and failing sooner will lead you to a better product — then please read on :)
What is user testing?
Generally speaking, user testing, user research and usability testing (we will use all three interchangeably)—is qualitative and not quantitative. Which means you want to understand how people use your product, but also WHY. It’s to understand the motivations, psychology and context behind all the data that tells you—people are dropping off here, not coming back, not clicking that button..etc.
Understanding what people say, do, think and feel. And then translating this into actionable next steps. This is the goal of user research and usability testing.
What people say, do, think and feel may or may not be in sync. Especially between what they say vs what they actually do. Which is why inferring feelings and thoughts through observation and dialogue is critical (and hard).
Fast & agile usability testing methods.
Below are the best ways to learn from your users when you are tight on time and budget. Maybe you need to convince your team to make decisions with real user feedback. Or maybe you need a way to fit in research into your team’s agile cycles. Whatever the reason, if you’re not a full-time user researcher—cheap and fast is likely better than slow, expensive and doing it wrong. And it’s way better than not doing any user testing at all. If you’ve been making excuses about user research and testing being expensive and time consuming—we hope this article can let you see otherwise :D
1. Guerilla user testing
Sometimes referred to as “hallway usability testing,” this skips all the recruiting, scheduling, waiting..etc. involved in traditional user interviews. You just walk into a cafe or public space and show your prototype/app/website and talk to people. It takes skills and craft to run the interviews right, but it can be effective on a low-budget and limited time (usually just offering a coffee gift card works).
2. Remote moderated testing (aka video chat)
This is similar to in-person where you interview people, show them prototypes and learn from them—but in a remote setting usually via video chat. You still need to recruit users, schedule time, risk no-shows—but skipping the travel logistics and global access is really great.
3. Remote unmoderated testing (aka automated user testing)
This is the fastest and easiest way to test with users and get user feedback. You put up your app, website or prototype hooked up to a service or tool w/ screen recording and mic—and then get back videos of users talking while using it.
sample remote unmoderated user feedback results
There are other fast ways where you can get text feedback or survey responses, but we’ll intentionally leave them out here. For the purposes of understanding user behavior, text feedback without seeing what people actually do — leaves too much potential for bias and misinterpretation.
What people say isn’t always what they actually do.
Check out this awesome book if you’re really curious as to how this gap between what people say and do often exist.
And next time you want to listen to your users (hopefully often) try any of these quick and fairly easy in-context user feedback methods. Watching how people really use your product as they talk through their thoughts and feelings — can lead you powerful unbiased insights.
In the next series of articles, we’ll explain how to do the last two remote testing methods..