Understanding Design Thinking Part 5: User Testing and Improvement


This article is the fifth and final in a series on the Design Thinking Method with a focus on user testing and improving your product. The Design Thinking Method is an iterative process used by many of the most innovative companies and organizations. It consists of 5 stages:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

It can be visualized like this:

Understanding Design Thinking Part 5: User Testing and Improvement

In this article, we dive into the fifth stage of the process: Test.

Test: User is still king

Users are your future customers, so before shipping your product, test it on representatives from your target group to make sure you get it right. If it doesn’t work for them, it isn’t going to work at all.

When conducting usability testing of your prototypes, you can learn a lot about the quality of your design and the needs of your users – but only if you do the user testing right. In the following, we’ll take a look at the best practices of user testing and the most common mistakes.

Dos and Don’ts of User Testing

User testing is a lot more than just giving a group of users your product and asking them a few questions. It takes proper preparation to get the most out of your user testing. Here are a few tips that can guide your process.

  1. Test Early On and Repeatedly: Test paper prototypes just as thoroughly as basic prototypes and high fidelity ones, and test them often – both with new and with old users.
  2. Have Clear Objectives: Ask yourself: “What do I want to know from this?” and focus on those objectives when testing. It’s better to have a few clear objectives than a billion unclear ones.
  3. Ask Open-Ended Questions: Avoid yes/no questions. Those random comments and deeper thoughts of your users are what you’re seeking.
  4. Test with Real Users: While it is okay to ask friends and family to test your product, it’s better to test on people from your actual target group. Try to find a diverse group of users.
  5. Focus Users on Tasks: Don’t ask users what they think of your product, give them tasks to do and observe how well they do.
  6. Observe, then Listen: As awesome as listening is, a lot more can be learned by observing the behavior of your users. Users might unconsciously lie to you, so as not to hurt your feelings. The body doesn’t lie though.
  7. Test in a Team: Include others in the testing process. All of you will observe other things and interpret things differently. In addition, it is best to have only 1 ask the questions and several more to only observe without speaking a word.

The More the Merrier or Less is More?

Maybe you’re now wondering how to find users and how many you will need? It depends on which stage you are in the design process.

Beginning phase: If you are building your product from scratch and are still exploring options, it’s better to work with a large number of users.

Refining phases: If you are finding solutions to clearly stated problems, it’s okay to use smaller groups of people (5 is a good number).

No matter the size of your group, go for diversity. If you from the beginning know that your product aims for a very diverse group, definitely test your product on a larger number of people, so you include all the perspectives.

The size of your test group will of course depend on size and resources. If you don’t have any budget but a strict timeframe, downsize the number of testers, but try to test on at least have five different users.

Evaluate & Repeat

Once you are through with your testing, you can evaluate your findings: Do you need to improve something? Did your testers struggle with anything? Make sure you are critical of yourself and your product. It’s better to make mistakes now and not once you’ve spent a lot of time and money producing and shipping your product.

If you have something that needs to be improved, it’s time to return to the first stage of the design thinking process and empathize again. That’s why this process is called an iterative method. 😉 – it might take some time, but again: better to spend time now than spend money later!

That’s it, pirate! Go crazy and start turning your ideas into real projects!

If you missed the first 4 parts of this series on design thinking, click here to start with Part 1: The User is King!

Enjoyed reading this article? Ever invited a pirate for a coffee? Now’s your chance.

Tagged as design thinking, improvement, testing, user testing

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