6. Testing and Validation
The testing and validation phase helps a product team ensure the design concept works as intended. Product testing is an art in itself. Do it wrong and you’ll learn nothing. Do it right and you might get incredible, unexpected insights that might even change your product strategy.
Usually, the validation phase starts when the high-fidelity design is fleshed out. Similar to the product research phase, this phase also varies between projects.
Testing With the Product Team
It’s possible to conduct limited testing for the product using resources you already have — your team.
“Eating your own dog food” is a popular technique of testing. Once the design team has iterated on the product to the point where it’s usable, testing it in-house is a great way to find the most critical issues.
Practice dogfooding to develop empathy among your team.
Testing With Real Users
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, if you want to select just one type of user research for your project, it should be qualitative usability testing. The basic idea behind a usability test is to check whether the design of a product works well with the target users. It’s relatively easy to test a concept with representative users: Once an interactive version of a product idea is in the hands of real users, a product team will be able to see how the target audience uses the product. The primary goal of this user experience testing method is to identify usability problems, collect qualitative data, and determine the participants’ overall satisfaction with the product. Gathering and analysing verbal and non-verbal feedback from the user helps a product team create a better user experience.
Usability testing is often done formally (where a researcher creates a screener, hires participants, has them come into the lab environment, records the session, etc.).
Usability testing can also be done informally — in the format of guerrilla testing. With guerrilla testing, a product tester goes to the nearest coffee shop, finds participants, asks them to play with a product for 10 minutes, and then gives them a small treat as a thank you.
- You don’t need a lot of test participants.
According to Jakob Nielsen’s research, up to 85% of core usability problems can be found by observing just five people using the product.
A diary study can be used to see how users interact with a product over an extended period of time (ranging from a few days to even a month or longer). During this period, study participants are asked to keep a diary and to log specific information about their activities. Usually, the diary includes open-ended questions such as:
- Where were you when using the product?
- What tasks did you hope to achieve?
- Did something frustrate you?
A diary study helps a researcher find answers to questions like:
- What are users’ primary tasks?
- What are their workflows for completing complex tasks?
The answers provide organic behavioural insights and help develop a rich understanding of a participant’s context and environment.
- Create clear and detailed instructions for logging.
Be as specific as possible about what information you need participants to log.
- Remind study participants about logging.
Prompt participants to fill in their diary (for example, through a daily notification).
- Make it possible to add screenshots to a diary.
If you use a digital version of a diary, make it possible for participants to upload screenshots. Screenshots are a nice supplement for user data and will help you with future data analysis.
Just because a product officially launches doesn’t mean the product design is over. In fact, product design is an ongoing process that continues for as long as a product’s in use. The team will learn and improve the product.
Understand How Users Interact With the Product
You need to know how users are using your product out in the wild — and that’s where analytics come in. Numbers provided by an analytics tool (clicks, navigation time, bounce rates, search queries, etc.) can be used to understand how people are actually using your product. Metrics can also uncover unexpected behaviours that are not explicit in user tests. Product team must continually track product performance to see if it meets customer satisfaction and if any improvements can be made.
- Use analytical tools.
Powerful tools such as Google Analytics and Hotjar can be used to understand user behaviors.
- Don’t rely solely on analytics.
You can’t determine the effectiveness of a product’s design based solely on analytics. To validate the analytical insights, you should conduct further hallway tests.
Feedback from Users
The best way to avoid having to rework a product is to inject feedback into the process. Regular user feedback (in the form of online surveys or analysis of customer support tickets) should be at the heart of the product design process. This information will drive product refinement.
- Don’t make it hard for users to provide feedback.
Don’t hide the “Leave feedback” option. Make it easy and, if possible, rewarding for users to share their feelings and ideas about your product.
Testing Changes in Design
A/B test is an appropriate testing method when designers are struggling to choose between two competing elements. This testing method consists of showing one of two versions randomly to an equal number of users and then reviewing analytics to see which version accomplished the specific goal more efficiently.
- Get into the habit of A/B testing your design changes.
Knowing that all of your changes will be A/B tested will give you a tremendous amount of freedom to try new (and potentially risky) things. You won’t have to worry that some change you’ve made will ruin everything.
Four Essential Things to Remember About Product Design
- The Process Should Morph To Fit the Project
When it comes to product design process, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The process employed should be tailored to fit the project’s particular needs, both business and functional. Here are just a few factors that can affect the design process:
- customer’s needs or preferences;
- how much time you have (the project’s deadline);
- project’s budget (for example, a limited budget won’t allow you to conduct a lot of interviews).
A process tailored to the capabilities of the business and of users is most effective. Thus, use what works the best for your project, get rid of the rest, and evolve your design process as the product evolves.
- Product Design Is Not a Linear Process
A lot of product teams think design is a linear process that starts with defining the product and ends with testing. But that assumption is wrong. The phases of the process often have considerable overlap, and usually there’s a lot of back and forth. As product teams learn more about the problem being solved, the users and the details of the project (especially the constraints), it may be necessary to revisit some of the research undertaken or try out new design ideas.
- Product Design Is a Never-Ending Process
Unlike more traditional forms of design (such as print design), the design process for digital products isn’t a one-time thing, and designers should never assume they’ll get everything perfect right from the start. Implementation often reveals gaps in the design (for example, bad assumptions about product usage, which are hard to predict without shipping the product).
To design successful products, teams need to adopt a process of continual improvement. Iterative design follows the idea that design should be done in repeated cycles: It’s a process of constantly refining and improving the product based on both qualitative and quantitative feedback data from your users. This is a great opportunity for designers to see the bigger picture, improve their work based on user feedback and make the product inherently more valuable to users.
- Product Design Is Based On Communication
While doing great design is one thing, communicating great design is equally as important. The best concepts will fail if they don’t get approval from the team and stakeholders. That’s why the best product designers are great communicators.
The most important thing to remember when designing products is that design is for people. To design great products, you must deliver the right features, with the right user experience for the right people. AppleTech is adept at defining your target audience, then researching their problems, and, finally, focus on building a product that solves those problems! Reach out to us, today.
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