Usability testing & research
You can’t do user-centred design without engaging users. It’s in the name, after all! Any business plan, project plan, customer segmentation, or anything really that gets created in the building is a hypothesis. The only way to know if it’s real or not is to validate it with customers.
Over the years each member of How Might We has run hundreds of sessions with real customers, ranging from simple interface simulations to being a patient in a hospital. We have found the two most effective areas of customer engagement are usability testing and ethnographic research.
Usability testing is one of the most effective methods of finding user experience issues with an existing piece of software or ensuring that a prototype meets user expectations and is easy to use.
Here’s how usability testing works:
Step One: Recruitment
Sourcing the right test users is key to getting the most from your usability testing. Sounds complicated, right? Don’t worry. We take care in recruiting appropriate users from making first contact to scheduling testing dates and getting them to arrive on time, so you don’t have to.
Step Two: Testing venue
Tests are either run at a hired venue or at your offices, provided you have two rooms available and a good internet connection. It’s best if there is a viewing room set up with a projector and sound so stakeholders and the project team can watch the tests live. There’s a certain kind of magic that comes from watching potential customers navigate their way through your design as your team enthusiastically sketch and scribble down notes while shouting, “How can he NOT find that button? It’s right there!”
Step Three: One-on-one interview
Unlike focus groups, we find one-on-one interviews generate better test results. Every test user is paired with a How Might We team member and is asked to complete a series of tasks.
While test users complete these tasks, we’re keenly observing, taking note of any problem areas or places where users get stuck. For example, test users might struggle to find the CHECKOUT button. In these instances, our team members ask guiding questions such as “What’s going on now?” or “Where to next?” to elicit more information about the user’s experience. These questions are not designed to frustrate the test user but rather to investigate tricky spots which may have been overlooked.
Step Four: Feedback
We offer feedback in two ways:
1) A formal debrief document laying out all the complications illuminated during testing. Paired with videos featuring the most impactful segments, this document highlights the most important findings, for which, we create precise, actionable recommendations for both for the short and long term, including possible sketches of the solutions.
This option is recommended for involving stakeholders who weren’t able to watch the tests or if you’re not in a position to make immediate changes and need a record of the findings.
2) A workshop run immediately after usability testing has finished, or the following day. Working with the project team, we focus on the most pressing issues, coming up with quick wins to better the user experience. This option has a much faster turnaround time and closer involvement with your team.
We dedicate a lot of time to working with target customers in their own environments – conducting interviews, taking pictures, or just hanging out with them in an effort to understand the complexity of their behaviour. We take note of nuances in their daily tasks to uncover possible problem areas they might not even know exist. Watching what real customers do in their environment is the most rewarding form of research. This is called shadowing, or contextual research.
In cases where we’re not able to spend time with users in situ, we can still get their input through in-depth interviews or diary studies. Similar to a usability test, an in-depth interview seeks to understand user experience. Working within the system they work or live, in-depth interviews uncover users’ habits, issues and behaviours so when it comes to solving issues, we can focus on the right ones and tackle them in the best way.
A diary study runs over a few days and requires respondents to fill in a diary with tasks every day. For example, participants might note their experience every time they go to a petrol station or Google something on the internet. Diary studies help us tailor our in-depth interviews with the respondents after the study and provide a great base to explore users’ experience.
Depending on what you are trying to uncover, the access you have to your customers, and your timeline we can create a research study that works for you.