Building Better Products with UserTesting

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Grio Design is showing some blog love this week! We’ve been busy making clients happy by solving wicked design problems and producing beautiful interfaces, but I wanted to take some time to talk about user experience design (UX), usability, and how UserTesting can help everyone reap the benefits of usability testing.

UX designers follow user centered design, a process that includes user feedback to direct and inform design. This is not a new concept and is greatly recognized as a standard for designing interfaces. However, clients with sensitive timelines and budgets often have a difficult time realizing the value of UX. For a nice quick visual overview of the ROI of UX, check out this video by Dr. Susan Weinschenk. Conducting user research and including users throughout the design process to test and evaluate design takes time. The payoff comes from the evidence gathered directly from users that the design is right and it’s the right design before moving on to more costly and less nimble software development.

Grio Design is exploring ways to provide more extensive and cost effective UX for their clients. With the help of UserTesting and their automated usability services, this is possible. UserTesting makes user research and usability testing accessible to everyone with the desire to create amazing products that people value and love. More UserTesting love will come later, but first I want to discuss UX and the concept of usability in a little more detail.

Utility and Usability
Utility refers to what features are needed and valuable to your users, whereas usability is how easy and pleasant features and interfaces are to use. When a product or service has the right set of features and is also pleasant to use, the product is useful. Usefulness is determined by users, not by designers. Jakob Nielsen of Nielsen Norman Group outlines the basics of usability in Usability 101: Introduction to Usability. He defines usability as having five qualities:

  • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design?
  • Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks?
  • Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency?
  • Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors?
  • Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

These qualities can be applied to usability testing, which helps designers evaluate a product by asking real users to use an interface while their interactions and commentary are recorded. The user feedback allows designers to make informed decisions about future design improvements. The result is a useful product that aligns the needs of users with the business requirements of the client. Without usability testing and user feedback, clients, designers, and developers make assumptions about user needs, attitudes, expectations, and behaviors.

The Role of UX

UX designers in small agencies, such as Grio, should perform usability testing to ensure the most useful product goes into development saving time and money for clients. The role of a UX designer is to include users in the design process. Without users, UX is a process of making risky assumptions about user needs and behaviors. Methods, like usability testing, collects user feedback to inform decisions and validate solutions. This reduces risk by ensuring a validated proof of concept before moving on to development where it can be costly and difficult to make changes. UX designers also work closely with clients to balance their business requirements with user needs. The end result is a product that is valuable for both the client and the user.

Usability Testing and UserTesting

UserTesting is a company out of the Bay Area that offers user research services and resources. They have a motto to help companies eliminate bad user experiences. This is important because bad user experiences are devastating to businesses and their bottom lines. UserTesting automates and manages the phases of usability testing that can often prohibit small business and agencies from following good design practices.

When done correctly and strategically, usability testing gathers actionable insight from target users about a product or service. While extremely valuable, this process takes time and can stretch resources thin in small agencies like Grio and clients with limited timelines and budgets.

Planning a usability test starts with having something to test. For example, wireframes, prototypes, unreleased apps, and live websites are prime candidates. Usability testing concludes with actionable analysis that is later prioritized and implemented for possible future testing. What happens in between involves writing test plans, recruiting users, and administering tests. This can easily be a full-time commitment and can take months to execute. This is where UserTesting shines. Their services automate the planning, recruiting, and testing steps of the process. This reduces time as well as costs and creates a viable and extremely valuable resource for timelines and budgets of all scales.

UserTesting also has a team of usability and user research experts on staff who can analyze the tests and created reports with data and action items. However, analyzing the data is very valuable to keep in-house and is a great technique for design teams to master. Analysis provides insight, validates assumptions while disqualifying others, reveals opportunity for improvement, but most importantly provides evidence. Evidence that aligns clients and designers with their users to create the most useful product possible.

How UserTesting Works

At the core of UserTesting is their recruiting model for testers. Each tester, the person doing the usability test, is paid about $15 for each test they complete. Because of the monetary incentive and the large pool of testers, test results can come back within an hour. With the fast turn-around time, testing does not have to be saved for the most critical features or tasks. Because tests can be done on any website or mobile application across all devices, analysis on competitor apps or sites is an option to consider.

Once it is determined what will be tested, UserTesting provides an interface that guides you through creating a test plan and identifying target users. The test plan may include a series of tasks, rating scales, and questionnaire style surveys depending on the needs of the test. Target users are defined by selecting from demographic and psychographic metrics. Next, the test is distributed. If a tester matches the defined target user profile, they can participate in the usability study.

After about 5 usability tests are completed, analysis begins. UserTesting also provides an interface to watch the videos captured during each test. The interface provides a place for taking notes and flagging sections in the test video for quick reference. Videos and the analysis reports are then shared with internal teams and with clients. The information gleaned from watching these video is invaluable for creating interfaces that are easy and pleasant to use. Checkout usertesting.com for more information.

Conclusion

In a time long ago, usability testing was inaccessible to many because of the high cost. With the help of services like UserTesting, everyone has access to affordable and efficient usability testing and good design practice. Limited budgets and timelines now have a resource to help them build better products that are not only beautiful, but usable and valuable to users.

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