User testing is an important part of user-centred design. It involves user feedback from real people and helps brand builders solve a wide range of problems including proposition work, identity assets and more specific elements such as user interface (UI) or user experience (UX). User testing can be done in person or remotely with the help of tools like Zoom which allows users to record their screen as they use and experience a product.
In this article, we’ll discuss user feedback methods, why it’s important for strategic business development as well as product, print and digital design.
User behaviour research is a vital, but often overlooked tool in effective brand building. ‘Testing’ is an activity that is usually applied at the end of a process, however, we recommend embracing user testing right from the very beginning of any creative process. We find that by adopting user testing earlier in our approach we can save a lot of time and get the heart of a solution much faster. Adapting existing methodologies to include user testing also helps involve clients in the process, allowing them to qualify decisions with real human insights.
In user testing, participants are observed while being introduced to concepts, using products or exploring new prototypes. These observations allow developers and designers to see how participants behave when interacting with features and functionality aimed at understanding user behaviour. This can be done individually or as part of a focus group. All types of user testing are unbiased and should not prejudice the users’ opinions on the topic in question. For example, for brand story work, users within a focus group will usually be presented with a mixture of options, each presented neutrally and with equal emphasis. It is not the job of the presenter to explain the need for a brand story or what it should entail, rather they should simply show the work and allow the group to feedback naturally.
The user testing stage is also a crucial part of the design development process. It’s about understanding and learning from audience behaviour, which will help designers to solve potential problems within print, digital or experiential design.
There are many types of user testing available, from individual interviews to small focus groups and mass online data collection. All user testing is presented in a neutral manner with responses recorded, documented and explored to find better ways of doing things.
User testing in strategic development is essential to measure how well a proposition or brand story will resonate with a specific group. For example, using a focus group of employees to test a set of new brand values for a large, established business will help brand builders understand what will resonate with staff.
When testing brand strategy work, user testing can help find out what really matters to an audience, their current attitudes towards a brand and how they would like it to change. A helpful way of probing user behaviour is by providing them with two different options for an asset or proposition work in order to measure which approach will resonate more powerfully with that audience group. This type of testing provides invaluable insight into consumer behaviour and user experience. For example, a design agency might test two different brand identities or mission statements in order to see which one resonates more with the user group being tested.
Product testing is a very general term that can span physical, digital or just about any type of product. User testing is a powerful way of monitoring product performance on an ongoing basis and can identify problems before they become a problem. Testing also helps to ensure that user needs are met and the product is performing as expected.
Product testing can be done on a continual basis, or in batches of two different products at once for comparison purposes (A/B Testing). This type of user-testing should always include user interviews so you get feedback from participants.
User testing in digital design is a user-driven process that can be done throughout the entire design and development lifecycle. As user behaviour changes, we need to test our designs as much of the time as possible — even if it’s just for five minutes in order to get feedback on how effective they really are.
User testing is important for product developers too. It helps with user experience (UX) design and providing a new user interface (UI). For example, user research can help to understand what tasks are performed by the user during their visit to the website or how they use a mobile app. These tests are usually used in conjunction with best practice guides from resources like Google Lighthouse.
User testing in print design can be beneficial for larger documents or books. It will help designers understand how users will interact with a printed product such as a catalogue or annual report. For example, if the reader immediately goes to the back of the book to look for an appendix or table of contents, it shows a level of understanding or expectation that should be satisfied.
User testing in experiential design is an essential way to learn how people will interact with a space or experience. For example, when designing a restaurant, it is essential to know where people will congregate, where they will stop to order and subsequently sit and eat. The user testing process for experiential design might include online and physical visits to space to gauge reactions and behaviours.
If your business would benefit from a new approach to strategic development, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strategic audit is undertaken before starting new strategic work to ensure it uses a solid evidence base.