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  • Writer's pictureTingbin Tang

Best way for user testing?

Updated: Mar 22, 2018

During my professional practice, I have tried so many ways of user testing. But can we really find out what users really need and how user feel through testing? What is the best way of user testing?

There are so many ways of user testing, and I almost tried all of them. From focus group, to user diary; from interview to observation; from usability testing to eye-tracking; from mobile usage tracking to facial expression recognition; even brainwave tracking... and so on and so forth.

Researchers like myself have tried all sorts of methodologies to study users, try to understand users, only because the more we understand them, the better we may provide better product/service/solution to fit for their needs, to earn their satisfaction, and to get money out from their pockets.

However, it is still quite challenge for a researcher to really dig out useful/meaningful information. The moment when a user has been recruited and sit in a testing lab, he/she already start to behavior differently. The moment when they been put in front of a camera, they already start to act, instead of being normal.

So what is the best way to conduct user testing? My understanding and my experiences are as below:

1. Rule number one, let them be themselves

We want the users to behave as how they normally are, but no to act. So it is important that we make the users comfortable and just be themselves. Which means, real life or working environment is mostly better than inside a lab; the camera or recorder should be hided; the researcher should hide as well.

2. Rule number two, observe instead of ask

There was an experiment done on NYC street, the researcher asked people on the street about a fake movie, and the result was, most people lied. People tend to answer what he/she think the researcher wanted. So the way to do interview or to ask question is very tricky. And the best way to do this is to observe, instead of to ask.

3. Rule number three, find the pattern but do not ignore special case

Although quite often our research job is to find out the pattern; however, some special case might lead to a very creative solution. So identify the trends, but also has a sharp eye for "sudden mutation", knowing what are irrelevant but also knowing what might can be a new situation and may indicate an avant-guard solution.

4. Rule number four, be stealth

It is not always easy to do that, especially when privacy is concerned. We used to use a tool called Mobi-track, with the consent from the users, we collect their daily mobile usage and hence analysis their behavior. One good example is EyeSee Mannequins, which keep a close watch on shoppers. By observe and listen to what the shoppers like about and how they feel about the dress through embedded camera, the store get to know what customers really want and like, through their mannequins, in a stealth way, without interfere the customers.

5. Rule number five, if possible, try to experience rather than as an outsider

I am always a strong believer, that the best way to do research is to become your target users, to actually live their life and experience the way they are going through. For example, when I was design for the Glucose app, I will also prick my own finger 8 times a day to collect blood sample and do the glucose testing; and I kept that for a whole month. By doing that, I really get to understand how our target users feel and what are they suffering from.

Usability testing is a technique used in user-centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an irreplaceable usability practice, since it gives direct input on how real users use the system.
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