Customer Experience

6 Tips to Make User Testing a Breeze

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Congratulations! Your boss has green-lighted your user testing initiative. You are now armed with the time, budget, and resources to get the feedback you need to improve your product.

But where to begin?

The idea of getting your product ripped apart by users in real time can seem overwhelming—but in reality, the process isn’t that scary. Promise.

We put together 6 quick tips to make sure your first user test is anxiety-free—and a resounding success.

1. Define your test

First things first: What should you ask users?

Start by taking note of what questions your team is currently trying to answer.

Are you looking to improve your user onboarding? Rachel Decker, Product Manager at ezCater, explains:

If you’re designing an onboarding flow, you have a goal: get the user to complete (at least) one meaningful task in your product. For Twitter, this may be following people the user admires, while for Duolingo this may mean starting your first Spanish lesson.

Or you might be trying to increase feature adoption. Or maybe you’re wondering how users are feeling about a particular change in your UI. There’s no right or wrong answer, but it is important to prioritize the problem you want to dig into with this user testing.

This is an image of people at  a user testing event hosted by Appcues called User Test Fest. Two engineers and developers are talking to a user tester and explaining features on a laptop.

For your first user test, try limiting your focus to one question or area of your product. Then, brush off those rusty science fair skills and develop a hypothesis and a few predictions. Having a hypothesis will give your reflections structure as you study the results of your user test.

2. Keep it simple

Don't overthink it. Seriously.

Each user test should be around 5 to 7 minutes, and you might only need about 5 tests to get to the maximum benefit-cost ratio.

We call it minimum viable user testing, and it’ll save you time, money, and headaches.

3. Practice makes perfect

A few days before your first user test, rehearse the process with teammates to ensure everything will run smoothly. Grab a colleague from another team (someone who wasn’t involved in user testing planning) to act as the user and set a timer to see how long it takes to complete the test.

It’s also a good idea to write a welcome script to give your users context before the test begins.

This is an event photo of a user testing event. This image shows a woman talking to a man about UX. This image features women and people of color in tech at a user testing event.

Things to include in the script:

  • An introduction about yourself and your product
  • Information about what they are going to test
  • How long the test will take
  • A reminder that you are testing the product, not their performance
  • Permission to record video/audio feedback

4. Listen up

User testing is really all about listening. Ask open-ended questions and make sure you have a reliable method of recording feedback.

Begin by getting some personal insight about your user. Tristan Harward, Head of Product Design here at Appcues, told User Interviews that the biggest mistake in user testing is not forming a good connection or building enough empathy from the start:

That part of an interview where you talk about the user’s background and experience and job or whatever profile fields you want to capture — it’s a huge opportunity. You can gain empathy and context, guide what you ask in the future and how you ask it, and build a rapport so the rest of the interview is multiplied.

I think a relaxed, happy person who knows you have their back and aren’t judging them will get so much deeper on any topic. Make an honest human connection with the person on the other end, and set it up so it’s all but guaranteed that you get truth and honesty just oozing out of the conversation. In my experience, that happens more often when I achieve a good connection early on.

It’s not easy, but it’s worth shooting for.
This is a photo of a product developer talking to a user in person at a user testing event, listening to user feedback about the product.

5. Share your insights

Once your user test is complete, bring what you learned back to your team. That doesn’t have to mean a full report, explains Rachel Decker.

You don’t need a lengthy write up on the findings. Just get your team to agree on what the most important takeaways were, document them, and decide on next steps together.
This is a picture of two users testing a product at a user testing event. This is a photo of a man and a woman wearing nametags and writing feedback about a software product that they are testing live.

Try disseminating your newfound insights by:

  • Hosting a lunch-and-learn with your team
  • Creating an article in your internal documentation
  • Sending out an email to your team or company
  • Having a dedicated Slack channel for ongoing feedback

6. Get another one on the books, ASAP

Test early and often.

In that interview with User Interviews, Tristan also said:

The biggest thing I wish I had been told when getting started would be, just to talk to as many users as you can... You can learn all the little tips along the way, but nothing takes the place of experience and practice. Drop all your fears and schedule 5 calls this week and just do your best, get feedback, mess up a lot, and try it all again next week.
This photo shows a woman with short blonde hair testing softwareat a user testing event while she talks to a woman with dark hair who is explaining the product.

The best part of user testing is that you build empathy for your user, which in turn builds momentum and alignment within your team. So make it a habit for yourself and your team by scheduling user tests on a recurring basis.

Ready to start testing?

Join us at User Test Fest (aka the best fest) for a night of fun and feedback. Subscribe for updates or reach out to laura@appcues.com to find out when we’ll be in town.

This is a duotone image in blue and pink that shows a woman testing a product on a laptop at a user testing event. This is abanner image for an event called Uer Test Fest, run by Appcues.

Margaret Kelsey is a content marketer at Appcues. Before Appcues, she built content programs for InVision’s design community for 3.5 years and has roots in painting and PR. She’s a big fan of puns, Blackbird Donuts, and Oxford commas—probably in that order.

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