If you make things for other people, you have probably been here.
You have already designed it. It is practically implemented. Who wants to tell the client that the thing is not ready yet, and that you might find even more things to do? And besides, there is a feedback button in the product. You can figure it out after launch.
Here are my favorite things to remind myself of every time I feel the pain of not wanting to do user testing on a project.
1. Don’t wait to be asked to do it
If you work on user experience, the thing your hands touch is not what you work on – user experience only happens when a live person interacts with what you made. So, make user testing a part of your job description and assume that if you were hired to create a thing, you were hired to test it.
If you do not have a lot of user testing experience, you will be surprised how few clients have any follow-up questions after you say you are going to do user testing. Very, very few clients are willing to throw themselves in the way of user testing. And a lot of clients will ask if they can participate to learn more!
2. Put it in the calendar
Nothing motivates like a deadline, and a user testing session at the end of the month helps me overcome those unconscious mental barriers that form to protect me from potentially bad news.
Once you have a date when the rubber meets the road, you will have a fixed point you can work backwards from. For example, a project where I am doing user testing for a consumer mobile app might look something like this if I do not have other time constraints:
- 16 days before: Client and team input has been gathered for the testing plan, analysis sessions and results presentation invites have been sent to stakeholders.
- 14 days before: Testing plan in done, including who is going to participate, what are our goals, what are we testing, etc.
- 10 days before: First round of test invites has been sent and/or we have reached out to potential testing locations.
- 5 days before: Final test participant bookings has been done, or we have booked the place where we will recruit ad-hoc participants.
- 2 days before: Internal test rehearsal has been done to make sure the script and tasks make sense when read aloud.
- 1 day before: Final prototype testing has been done, all necessary printouts and equipment are ready.
- Date of the user testing session.
Note that planning and organizing user testing will never take the full 16 days (far from it), so there is no reason you cannot do user testing while also handling other parts of a project. You can also get more mileage out of your planning time if you plan for multiple user test sessions across the project that will use the same testing locations, participant pool, and/or invite templates.
3. Start with The Decision
In my various roles as a design leader and researcher I have seen so many user tests reduced to nothing at the end because the designer or the stakeholders were not ready to commit to a decision based on the test results. So, start with this:
“What is The Decision we will make based on the findings of this user test?”
This question takes you forward in time to the end of the testing and is best asked in the presence of any stakeholders who need to be involved in making those decisions. Are we going to add usability improvements to the backlog? Are we going to choose between two product launch strategies? What would you or the stakeholders need to see to make that decision based on testing results?
Not every usability fix will require a go-ahead from your client, but sometimes a question like this will help you get stakeholders invested in the importance of user testing or increase your motivation to through with the tests. And once or twice it will tell you to spend your testing efforts elsewhere if it turns out no amount of data will be able to convince a stakeholder about this decision.
4. Grab a friend
Planning and rehearsing user tests requires a bit of creativity and a lot of chore-like admin work, and I find both a lot more bearable when working together with someone else in the same room or just on a call with me. Plus, now you have an accountability buddy to do those user tests!
User testing is also a fantastic opportunity to work closely with other people you might not be working with on daily basis, whether they are your project’s stakeholders or team members, or your close colleague from another project.
5. Focus on getting the first test done!
Like with a lot of other things we form barriers around, like meeting new people or telling unwelcome news, the most important thing is to break the ice. When I am approaching people to take part in user tests, I always focus on just holding my nose and getting the first one over with.
Once my lizard brain realizes I will not die from asking someone if they would like to test out a new feature for ten minutes and get a chocolate at the end, I know I will already be full of curiosity and questions I want to ask the other users, and that momentum will carry me through the user testing process.
By remembering these tips, I know I am already halfway to getting real, actionable feedback that will help me create products and experiences the users will love. And even in the rare case where nothing new comes up, I still get to see people’s eyes light up as they see the product or service work exactly like they always wanted. <3
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About the Author
Roosa is an all-round digital designer, design leader, user researcher and facilitator working with clients ranging from the biggest companies in Finland to startups and academic research since 2013. As a designer, Roosa is naturally curious and always trying to make teams and organizations work better together using Agile principles.
If you need help in clarifying your user experience vision, conduct strategy-defining customer research or craft top-of-the-class digital experiences, have a chat with Roosa!