Waiting until you have a near-finished product to begin user testing won’t lead to useful feedback. Learn why to test early and often with simple mock-ups.
Conducting user testing is a valuable part of the product development process. But there’s a right and wrong way to do it. And it’s not necessary — or prudent — to test fully functional and aesthetically pleasing prototypes with your users too early in the game.
You’re probably not using prototypes effectively if:
So how can you make user testing the beneficial and informative exercise you need it to be? Here are two quick-and-dirty tips to get clear, useful, actionable feedback.
There will come a time to stage a grand reveal of a fully functional, high-fidelity, wow-evoking prototype.The user testing stage is not that time. In this phase, you’re more likely to get the feedback you need from a crude mock-up made of cardboard.
There are two primary reasons for this:
Put plainly, overly engineered prototypes muddy the waters and prevent you from getting the targeted feedback you need on the timeline you desire. Simple and straightforward is best.
Check out our step-by-step guide to learn how to design a perfectly crude mock-up of your own.
If you shouldn’t invest time and resources into creating fully functional, highly engineered prototypes, how should you approach the user testing process? We recommend creating multiple low-fidelity prototypes that each focus on answering specific questions you have about your design.
For example, one prototype might test the functionality of a lever, while another might test how users respond to the product’s overall size and shape.
Let’s consider a hypothetical situation based on a familiar product. It’s easy to imagine the different prototypes Apple may have used to test the various components of the iPhone. There’s no way Apple would have gone into a user testing session with a fully functioning prototype and expected to get useful feedback on all the small parts and features that make up the iPhone. Instead, they likely created entirely different sets of prototypes to explore questions like:
Breaking your product down into bite-sized pieces enables you to find and fix the problems that could otherwise fall under your users’ radar.
Successful products aren’t created in a vacuum. They’re born of research, testing, and intentional iteration.
Unfortunately, many product developers shortchange the user testing process because they think it’s too expensive to create multiple prototypes. Thankfully, that doesn’t have to be the case.
Remember: in user testing, less is often more. So keep your prototypes simple and purposeful. Focus users on key tasks and design questions. Break your product down into small elements to get the insights that matter most.
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