User testing is helpful in all stages of a project. At the beginning of the redesign project it helps you uncover existing issues with the site, perceptions from users and spark ideas into how to solve the site problems. When conducting qualitative user testing, there are a three phases:
- Preparation - Figure out what you are going to test, determine hypothesis, determine who you are testing, recruitement of participants, creation of the test plan and script (and prototypes if applicable)
- Testing - Testing the participants using the script. Recording the test and taking notes.
- Analysis and Results - Reviewing the recordings and transcriptions, analysis of findings and final presentation
Step 1: Preparation
Determining what you want to test and your hypothesis are the the first steps. The test can consist of overall website usability, a particular feature or a user journey. The next step is to determine who you want to test with and how many participants. To find these participants, you must create a screener that asks questions that will narrow the pool to the perfect audience. Use the product's target audience and user base as your guide. The next step is to create a test plan. The plan should outline the methodology, tasks and script for the test. UX Pin has a nice template kit that you can use as a starting point for your testing plan.
Step 2: Testing
During the test, the first 10 minutes of introduction are an important time to build rapport and trust with the participant. It takes time to get the participant comfortable enough to share information without feeling like their under the microscope. From my experience, it helps to make a small joke at the beginning to break the ice. Telling the participants that they can say whatever they want and you won't get offended because you didn't create the work. From my test, this line seems to get a small laugh 85% of the time.
If you don't have a fat budget that allows for a testing facility or software, you have to macgyver your own lab. I haved used Quicktime to record the desktop computer screen and to capture video of the participant during the test. For mobile, I used the app UX Recorder. When clients wanted to be part of the test, we streamed the test via Join.me and conference call. To communicate with the clients during the test, we chatted via Slack and my test partner relayed the questions.
Step 3: Analysis and Results
This is the fun part. After the test is done, you have to listen to all the tests again. It's so hard to listen to the sound of your own voice, but you have to bite the bullet. As you go through the tests, keep track of the similarities between what each test participant said. Capture all the metrics for your test: success rate, time spent on task, etc. Once you've analyzed the data, you can see if you're hypothesis is correct or if you have found something different.