Optimizing User Testing In Product Development

User testing is an important phase of product development for so many reasons. From ease of use to general appearance, functionality and even size, getting it right from the start has never been more important. Unlike software and web development, user testing for hardware and physical products is even more challenging. This is why we will be learning on how best to optimize a user testing experience and get the most important insights going forward in your product development. Product developers who embark on early user testing rarely get it wrong. Here are the simplest and cost-efficient tips you can try right away. 

Start Early 
Do away with the assumption that user testing must be with the fully-formed product. While having a tangible prototype is advised, you can start your user testing and opinion survey right from the moment you conclude on your design form, product features and aesthetics. 

With the aid of 3D printing, you can whip up a physical prop for hands-on experience. You can also use sketches, PowerPoints, storyboards, screenshots and even animations to communicate the look and form of your product and its offerings.

Go on that blind date 
Well…. not exactly a blind date. The idea here is to go out to the real world and do a random survey with a range of participants in your pre-defined target audience. This blind survey will help you get random feedbacks from both the people you feel would want your product and those who will not. The data gathered here will also help you with ideas on how to improve the product, recruit the testers, with the right attitude, plan their schedules and get first hand critique. 

Recruit a fixed number of product testers 
There’s a reason why most businesses get their first patronage from friends and family. But even before the product hits the shelf, having a convenience testing exercise with people in your immediate circle can be a great advantage. Should you choose to, conclude a fixed number of testers that are willing to give you their time and have your first round of user experience testing with them. Although there is always the possibility of a bias because of their relationship with you, you can get past this by recruiting your testers by narrowing down on the specific traits, behaviors and demographic that pre-determine target audience should be. 
If you cannot secure the time of people around you, make a shortlist of person from your random survey and group them into sets. Ensure that the people you have selected resonate with specific interests, activities, demographic, purchase behaviors and even purchasing power.

Be clear and concise 
Avoid swarming your test subjects with a plethora of options and opinions to consider. This is the easiest way to gain a large data of non-sense. Rather, emphasize the strong points and attributes being tested in your design. Query opinions using a scale, where possible. Similarly, leave opportunities for testers to express how they feel about certain attributes in black and white. If you will be having on-site and off-site testing, ensure that your questionnaire is designed with utmost simplicity for remote participants. Finally, interact during the user testing exercise. 

See and feel, not hear
Rather than collect all that data for subsequent analysis, try to have a post-testing discuss with your panel to ensure that their experiences are profoundly communicated. Rather than hearing from them, ask them to show you their likes and dislikes about the product. Explore, through discussions, how the product functionality keys into their every day lives and the things that can affect their usability or personal decisions to buy or ignore. 

Ask about the product first impressions, the things that immediately capture their attention and their perceptions around pricing. All of this data will be of inestimable worth to your marketing team and product development engineers. 

Analyze consistent patterns and feedbacks 
Now that you’ve gotten all the feedback, review and critiques, the next step is to engage in some form of data analytics. Depending on what your company/product’s unique selling proposition, you should have some level of consistency in the feedback. With simple tools like Excel spreadsheets, you can look for the biggest patterns around the product design, functionality and ease of use. 
Another key consideration should be feedbacks regarding pricing, critiques, potential obstacles to trial. Once you have fully analyzed the data, schedule a meeting with your team to see how you can work on all the strong points and improve on the lows while factoring cost, time and feasibility. 

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