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4 minute read

User testing: a no-brainer fast track to better products

It’s clear: user testing pays off in time, money and customer satisfaction. So why do some companies still choose to knock this critical step off their product rollout lifecycles? Answer: the value of user testing isn’t always evident to many businesses. Avoiding user testing is a quick way to win a little extra budget up front, but doing so almost always leads to expensive hassles later on. Getting your priorities right from the start is the key to a successful launch.

User testing isn’t just for bug fixing. Extensive research – and our own experience with over 200 user tests per year – shows that it’s an essential step in the path toward products that fully meet the needs and expectations of consumers in real-life settings.

Websites, applications, marketing campaigns, objects, physical documents and even ideas: pretty much anything that is consumed can be user tested. In this blog post, we describe five wins you can achieve with this powerful validation method.

1. Find out if your concept is strong

User testing can be performed at any moment of the product development lifecycle to de-risk the product. During the conceptual phase, it’s a rapid way to determine whether your idea has merit.



Case in point: Bebat

“This project is a great example of how a certain key target audience – children – can completely overturn what looks like a super idea to the average adult”, says Julie Dhont, service designer. “When we tested the usability of this used battery container, kids didn’t even use the specially designed battery hatch at all. They simply removed the entire lid, completely bypassing the hatch!”

2. Avoid developing unnecessary elements

Just because other similar products or platforms out there have certain features doesn’t mean yours needs it. In fact, useless ‘boilerplate’ items and unused screens add up in development time and budget. User testing enables you to identify these fillers and avoid having them clutter up your website or app.



Case in point: Apyx

“As part of a rebranding exercise, we performed a small user test on the website of Apyx, a digital product developer, which contained a contact page with a form”, explains Kathelijne Put, service designer. “All five test users said that they never used contact forms and preferred an email address or phone number. Thanks to this insight, Apyx confidently dropped the form from its development plan, saving time and simplifying implementation.”

3. Meet the needs of every single user

The importance of accessibility can’t be underestimated, especially when it comes to providing essential services to a broad target audience. This includes not just testing an application or website on real-life platforms vs. prototypes but also considering the needs of every single user - a.k.a. inclusive design.

Accessibility testing


Case in point: City of Bruges

“For this municipality, we tested a website that delivers a public service,” says service designer Laurens Somers. “We had to ensure that visually impaired citizens were also able to access the service. To do this, we invited a blind person to test it using the supporting hardware and software of his choice. Because these tools navigate websites the top down or bottom-up, items in the middle of a page are often completely inaccessible territory for these users, even though they’re plain to see for users with normal vision.”

4. Validate and adjust based on real-life evidence

Once an online platform has been created, even if every functionality works exactly the way it’s supposed to, consumers in their natural environments often have unforeseen expectations when they explore it themselves.



Case in point: Deliverect

“Performing two different user tests for the mobile and desktop versions of the company’s website turned out to be extremely valuable because it became clear that the same users navigated through websites differently when they were on their smartphones vs. their PCs”, Kathelijne says. “They expected a completely different look and feel, and even modified content on pages and menus.”

Users wanted much shorter pages containing much less content on mobile vs. desktop. As an added benefit, offering less content also led to refining the copy to be much cleaner and to the point - benefiting both mobile and desktop users.

“This highlights the fact that user insights are invaluable for validating and adjusting the features you include in your product – before you launch it.”

5. Become a more customer-centric enterprise

In the digital age, consumers expect to have meaningful interactions with the companies and organisations they rely on. User testing is a powerful way to not only get acquainted with the faces, names and real-life needs of your target audience but to build real buy-in directly with them.

Usertesting


Case in point: Reneos

“During user testing, a real-life person interacts directly with your organisation – and vice versa,” Julie goes on to say. “After testing the prototype of a platform for the recycling of electric car and motorcycle batteries, we invited manufacturers and recyclers in multiple countries to use it and share their experiences with Reneos.”

“In the process, these real-life customers got to know Reneos. Their voices were heard, and their needs were taken into account. We observed that this has a powerful influence on credibility and adoption.”

Always more to discover

Even if you feel like you know a lot about your target group, there is always more to discover. It naturally comes with a cost, but it’s not an excessive cost, particularly at the beginning of the design process. You can discover a lot by inviting five people to answer a couple of simple questions.

But does that mean that in-depth, multi-day user tests are skippable? Absolutely not. The rich consumer insights they reveal can shave off days – maybe even weeks – of development time, not to mention all the customer support needed when things go wrong after launch. It’s clear from our experiences that user testing always adds value.

Developing delightful products and services requires effortless user experiences – and our experienced team is here to help you deliver on your promises. Get in touch.


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