A Guide for User Testing

User testing can be very beneficial to the design and development of a project

Whether the product is a digital experience or a physical object, getting feedback from users who have no experience with the project is crucial to get valuable unbiased opinions.

Carrying out the process of user testing can be done easily once you get the resources and have conducted it a few times. Depending on the project being tested, you will need to prepare with several things.

Here are a few things that you will need:

  • Non-disclosure agreement*
  • Video camera (optional)**
    • Permission form (if video is used)
  • 5+ users (preferably in the population of your target audience)
  • Conductor
  • Note takers
  • 3-5 scenarios
  • Freebies (optional)***

*If your product has yet to be released to the public, which is usually the case, it is best to have the users sign a NDA.
**To capture how the user interacts with the product, having a video camera set up to record the product and not the user helps to capture additional notes. For best practices, it is recommended that a release form be created for the users.
***On a fun note, you can give out branded freebies to the users to thank them for participating (promotions!)

To prepare for a user testing session, you should create several scenarios to have users run through. Make these scenarios as clear as possible without giving specific directions on how to interact with the product. Have these scenarios ask the user to walk through key functionalities or features. After creating these scenarios, move forward by writing a script for the conductor. This person will be the guide throughout the process. Have the script sound as natural but professional as possible. You want the users feeling comfortable and trusting when they go through testing. This will also allow you to have a clear flow of your thoughts so your testing goes off without a hitch.

After preparation, you have to gather your users. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Reach out to people in advance and schedule a time
  2. Ask people in the user populations to participate for a few minutes

At Standard Beagle, we have tried both ways but the latter proved to gather more useful intel. What worked best for us is having a member of the team looking for potential new participants while the remainder focused on a single session.

Now that everything is prepared, here are the steps to run through a single session of user testing:

  1. Bring user into the testing room
  2. Walk the user through what is expected of them
  3. Ask the user to sign the NDA and video recording permission form
  4. Ask the user demographic questions that are relevant to the project
  5. Ask for the user’s first impression
    • What do they think it is
    • What do they think its used for
    • Would they want to use this
  6. Provide the user with each scenario and have them walk through the steps they would take to complete a given task (make sure to emphasize that they follow the instructions provided)
  7. Ask them to speak their thoughts out loud so the camera and note-takers can capture their thought process
  8. Note down any comments and actions taken by the user
  9. Be patient with the user and try to help them as little as possible with the tasks
  10. After the scenarios, ask the user what could use improvement and their overall impression
  11. Thank the user for participating and end the session

After the sessions, debrief with the team and gather the results in a report to provide to the team and stakeholders if proposing any changes (if needed) or for documentation purposes.

User testing can provide valuable information. Just by testing 6 users, our team discovered significant issues that were not previously considered. Next time you have a big project, propose user testing the the client. You will not regret it.