Prototyping & user testing
Through any design process, there are times where decisions and assumptions are made in order to progress a project. To validate the choices we make, it’s useful to prototype options and test with real users.
Prototyping & user testing in practice
When to prototype
No project has an infinite budget, so choosing what and when to test with users is as important to project success as deciding a scope or setting objectives.
We find that setting a minimum level of certainty for assumptions and decisions can help flag those choices that should be tested further. We can be 99% sure that a website needs a primary navigation, but how convinced are we with the structure or positioning of it?
By making a number of lo-fidelity prototypes of the options available, we can ask real users to help us make the right decision.
User testing practices
At Kind, we use a number of different user testing methods, depending on the component of a project we are testing.
For navigational structures, we might use card sorting: where users are asked to group content in a way they see fit; and tree testing: where, once we have a structure we like, we check that users can navigate through it easily.
To test our layouts we run first-click or interaction tests, giving users a task to complete and seeing where they make a start.
For full user journeys or more complex features, we’re likely to have made a larger number of assumptions, so we might carry out moderated testing or deliver a proof-of-concept to gather qualitative feedback from a wider set of users.
Many of the tools we use for remote user testing have built in reporting, so we can quickly uncover issues with decisions we’ve made or find out which option is preferred.
For the qualitative user testing, we group comments and issues together into themes and identify the most commonly repeated feedback.
To finish our analysis, we work with our clients to prioritise feedback we’ve received based on the value created (for both the organisation and its users) by addressing it versus the cost to do so.
Benefits of prototyping & user testing
Get it right at launch
One of the the key benefits of prototyping and user testing in this way is that it’s much less likely that you’ll need to make wholesale changes to what you have delivered post-launch. Projects that haven’t included any user testing are essentially doing the work in the real-world, so feedback and insights received at this point have to be implemented at a later date.
Cheaper in the long-term
There’s obviously a cost involved in doing this work and, if it turns out all of the decisions and assumptions made were the right ones you could argue that the process was unnecessary. But we’re yet to come across a project where that’s happened.
On the other hand, it is much more expensive to uncover issues later on in a project as design, development and content work has to be rejigged or even redone from scratch.
Increase the likelihood of success
The assumptions and decisions you’ve made have been validated along the way, so what you are delivering is not only right for the organisation, its right for the audience too. And that is the key to any successful venture.
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