When to UX Test?

It is widely accepted that organisations who embed UX Testing throughout the project lifecycle reap rich, actionable user insight that reduces development costs and improves user satisfaction. But, other triggers – some planned, some not – also determine when it is time to test.

Drawing from our clients’ and our own experience, in this post we examine both:

– when to UX Test within a project lifecycle

– when, outside of a project lifecycle, it’s time to gather user insight.

When to test within a Project Lifecycle

Research has consistently shown that the sooner you test the better, for two very obvious reasons:

– it’s easier to make changes before too much code has been written

– it’s cheaper and easier to change course.

However, many of our new clients are often surprised at just how rich the insight can be from UX Testing early in a project lifecycle – believing that users (normal people, not digital folk) might struggle to provide useful feedback on something that’s only a flat image, a half-finished prototype or basic wireframes. That’s not the case – our experience (100k+ user videos) shows that users do engage and “get” that it’s Work in Progress. Watch this video clip of an Axure prototype test to see what we mean:

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Key project phases (a separate post soon on UX Testing and Agile) are outlined below – together with some Testing Tips.

Mock-up Phase

Let users decide which design direction is best by testing your concepts with them (and not your Senior Management team)

Wireframing Phase

Whether branded or unbranded (to remove any bias if you like), high or low fidelity – the insight can be extremely rich even before you hand over to the Development team.

Now tools like Axure support Mobile Apps and Responsive Websites you can start multi-device testing these well ahead of any code being produced.

TIP: By being up-front with users that this is an unfinished piece of work you’ll get better feedback e.g.

“In this test we would like your feedback on a prototype of a new website. It’s not yet finished so not everything will work, don’t worry about that – return to the Home Page if you get lost.”

ANOTHER TIP: Read our testing your Axure Prototype post.

Staging and UAT environments

As the code and UI start to come together, now is an optimal time to capture user insight on the key interactions of your project with insight being shared with designers, developers and the business.

TIP: If your environments are password protected then ask your IT team to set-up a temporary password so users can be granted access (and include that in the tasks for users).

ANOTHER TIP: If your environments are restricted by IP address then contact us and we can securely grant access to users from our panel through a single IP address.

A MOBILE TIP: You can even test pre-store Apps – contact us and we’ll explain how.

Live Site

If you’ve planned a “mop-up” period post launch, a round of testing with real users and real data will help nail those final snags.

When to UX Test Outside of the Project Lifecycle

We asked some of our clients when, outside of the regular project lifecycle, they turn to UX Testing. We share five of the most popular (and interesting) answers below.

1. Before starting a project

Even before you kick off the design or concepting phase of your project, running user research on competitor services means your team starts with the users’ view of existing similar services, rather than their own opinions.

TIP: Run UX Testing on three competitor sites to reveal what works and what doesn’t from the users’ perspective. Why? Because your perception of competitors is biased, maybe not as biased as your view of your own site, but biased nonethless.

2. When signing-off Agency Deliverables

This “when” is common across larger brands who have high levels of Agency spend. By engaging users in the sign-off process, these brands can balance the (Agency’s) desire for creativity and innovation against something that actually works for “normal folk”.

3. When you’re struggling to design the next round of MVT tests

We often hear that the first few rounds of MVTing are great – often yielding pretty impressive returns. Then things get harder. One reason they get harder is because the decision making process around “What to test?” can be time consuming and tends to be based on internal team hunches.

Unless, that is, you let UX Testing do much of that work for you by identifying what prevents them from “converting” on a particular journey. Not only does UX Testing help you refine the MVT tests you are planning, it will also inspire you to run some you never imagined.

4. When your Boss is admiring a competitor site

It can be quite exhausting for a digital team to be constantly beaten (or tapped, to be more polite) with the “Competitor X is much better than us” stick, especially when that stick is based on an opinion (yes, a highly paid person’s one, but an opinion nonetheless) and not user insight.

TIP: When you hear this, that’s the time to UX Test and bring user insight, not hunches or opinion, into the conversation. Benchmark your site versus that competitor and share the results with your Boss.

5. And finally… when you’re going for a Job Interview

So, you tried point 4 and are looking for a new job! If that new role involves you understanding user behaviour then take some clips from a round of UX Testing into the interview with you. What better way to convince your new employers that you are a true “User Whisperer” that acts upon insight (and not hunches like your old Boss)?

This approach has worked for at least two very senior UX Managers at large brands we know.

When do you test?

Outside of your project lifecycle are there times when you UX Test? Leave a comment below and let us know when.

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