Too often designers are not user testing their work on actual human beings who fit specific demographics. Sure, the design may look great but at the end of the day does beauty achieve the client’s goal? If you call yourself a designer it is your responsibility to create solutions for people, you can’t actually know if you have succeeded when you don’t ask other people to review your solution.
User testing is a factor in a successful design equation.
Best practices will only get you so far in web design. Working in the industry as a Web Designer for a while it is difficult to not apply what you have learned to new projects. Every business is different, best web design practices don’t exist. What does exist are web design trends that seem to work better than others, however, trends are based on generalized solutions to similar problems, not specific problems that are unique to your client. The whole reason a client comes to you is to gain more perspective and expertise for their particular problem to be solved. This is why user testing is a critical piece to a successful project.
User testing should really come up twice in your project before you start designing and after you’re finished. The reason why you want to start with user testing is because it helps to inform you of people’s frustrations, what they are looking to do, and how they are behaving. Receiving this information from people contributes to many design decisions you’ll make for your client. Often times this feedback is very specific and if you watch and listen carefully the direction you should take the design. Not only does user testing enlighten your work but it also helps contribute to more data-driven decisions than This generates more questions that seek answers and if you haven’t already read this check out my post, “Good Designers Ask More Questions” it will help define a more robust questionnaire process. When you have more clarity on user’s frustrations and behaviors design work becomes closer to data-driven hypothesis rather than an assumption.
User tests should also be conducted after work is completed. You will learn way more about your personal design work when you user test your own design work. It’s unsolicited advice from people who are not emotionally tied to you, check your ego at the door! Doing this will also show you where you have improved or where you have fallen short. Make sure in the very beginning of your process your client understands that this is a process and you both will learn new things about the target audience and the expectations they hold for the industry.
Don’t make user testing a line item to take out to minimize cost for your client.
Often, when user testing is a line item in a proposal, clients will ask to subtract it to minimize cost. You need to position this so it isn’t optional because it shouldn’t be! Today, anybody can go to Wix, Squarespace, or Weebly to make a cheap website that looks beautiful. The difference, however, is the client shouldn’t be coming to you just because they want something beautiful they’re also looking for you to provide tailored solutions to their problems. The truth is they don’t understand how it is doing anything for them, but you do at least you should after reading this post. It’s more than necessary to gain feedback from people who would actually use your solutions. User testing shapes the direction of your design solutions. User testing also helps you grow as a designer and exercises the problem-solving muscle that makes us designers in the first place. Make user testing a part of your processes they are coming to you not only for the quality of work you do but also for the solutions you will provide them. When they agree to pay you for your solutions and process they should be pleasantly surprised that user testing is a part of that process.
Describe your deliverables don’t line item everything out in your proposals.
In my experience line items distract client from what they seek because line items position you as an expense. You’re not an expense you’re an investment that generates more revenue for your client. Often, more revenue is the goal clients are looking to achieve with your services. Think about it, even a logo design has an end goal of creating more revenue for a business. Brands establish quality and vision for a business. Without a brand, there is no message relating or engaging people and when people are not engaged, they care nothing for your client’s business. When people care nothing for a business, you guessed it, they are not buying anything.
Bringing this conversation back around to user testing, people are everything to the success of any business. You can’t know if people like anything without testing their behaviors and that is why you must make it a part of your process. You don’t know if you’re successful without feedback and data, ask yourself, if I don’t know why this is successful why should anyone come to me for any web design services?
User Testing tools and techniques to lower project cost.
If you still are having a tough time lowering cost of the project don’t cut user testing out just change your approach. I have learned from my own experience that you don’t need to spend a dime to get great feedback. People like to help, as long as you’re polite and don’t take up too much of their time they are more than willing to be a part of solutions because it feels good.
Ida Aalen describes in her post Never Show A Design You Haven’t Tested On Users on A List Apart you can do a Pluralistic Walkthrough which is basically a group of professionals that are not attached to the project look over a prototype and share their thoughts on any usability red flags. InVision or a private Slack channels are great platforms to use for this.
Ida also describes how you can also hit the streets and actually talk with people. “If you’re shy, take a deep breath and get over it,” she says. I have found when I personally go out and have quick conversations with people it informs me very well. I have only used the approach of setting up questionnaire meetings with people who have used the product or service and want to give feedback. I would imagine hitting the streets approach, has even more raw feedback that directly relates to ease of use. Ida describes that the most approachable thing you can do when talking to people you don’t know is by using an iPad in a basket full of snacks. She suggests to approach people who seem bored or like they’re waiting, say: “Excuse me, I’m from [company]. Could I borrow a couple of minutes from you? I promise it won’t take more than five minutes and I have snacks!” Ida also informs us that this works best with two people so one of you can talk and the other can take notes.
Paid Online Testing Tools
To review user behavior a tool I have been known to use often is usertesting.com this tool costs around $99 per user test.
Deliverables of this tool include:
- custom demographic settings
- custom tasks for users to complete
- watch their interface interaction through recorded video
- hear recorded user feedback
- shareable links to send to clients
- ability to rate testers so usertesting.com can refine who you receive
- ability to write and save notes on specific video time sections
- ability to share tester notes with client
I really enjoy user usertesting.com and it has aided me in many client projects. The only thing I would critique it on is that I wish I could get more granular with the demographic settings.
User testing is required.
As I hope I have described above, user testing is not something that should be taken out of the design process. Too many web design commodities exist to let freelancers or agencies allow user testing to be optional. It simply isn’t enough anymore to base decisions on best practices or beauty. Technology and design trends are moving too fast and for you as an individual to stay dominant in your industry. Thankfully, human interaction and communication are what this industry is all about, user testing is the best way to know what works and what needs to change.