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User Testing Made Simple

“Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.” — Zora Neale Hurston

Here at Forum One, we recognize the value of poking and prying with a purpose. Curiosity is a driving force behind the work that we do, and we are guided by the belief that good user experience is based on real people and how they interact with information. We therefore place a high value on doing our homework: user research, testing and analyses. Who are we designing for and can they actually use what we’ve built? 

The answers to these questions are growing more complicated as our products and services have gone global. It is no longer enough to design based on the patterns around us; our users are no longer our neighbors. Though they might be in America, it’s just as likely that they’re in Angola. 

Though budgeting enough for good research has always been a struggle, the tide is turning. While research is often the first line item to be cut from a budget, its importance to good design is growing as we design for users outside our backyard. Not only do we have to push for the resources to do the research more broadly, we have to find ways to do it right more specifically. That means moving full speed ahead into the unknown, finding the time and the resources to literally travel the world because good user experience design addresses the needs of users across borders, cultures, and languages. 

So what do we do when our users are neither niche nor easy to find? What do we do when the right users are likely to come from unexpected corners and crevices of the world?

Enter stage left: UserTesting.com 

It is no longer enough to recognize local patterns. We need to look for patterns that emerge across borders around the world. 

Those are the patterns upon which we should be making our design decisions, guiding us as we build prototypes that resonate with our users, that are functional and emotionally meaningful for all. In order to do that, we must base our work on evidence instead of assumptions. Good user experience today means more than simply creating experiences — it means developing new ways of doing things. The service industry is changing and we are increasingly shaking up the way we work, reaching out to those who are not traditional economic players, but are increasingly connected.

“We must create a kind of globalization that works for everyone… and not just for a few.” — Nestor Kirchner 

While it is clear that user testing is an important step of developing functional digital products, many people and companies still don’t budget for it. Perhaps they can’t afford it or don’t see the cost benefit. Perhaps they don’t want to expend the resources to reach out beyond current users or they simply don’t have the time. Maybe they assume that they already know their users. Some of those reasons are valid; some less so. Either way, UserTesting.com offers a solution to all of the above. In one fell swoop, UserTesting offers a solution to change the name of the game. With affordable plans, the testing process is streamlined and the costs are reduced. But not just that. UserTesting gets UX designers the users they need, but more than that, it makes it easy to identify problems quickly, providing insights and data at just a glance. 

UserTesting gives UX designers the information they need to improve their work quickly and often, taking a wider view of the world around us. 

UserTesting creates videos and provides summary metrics so that we can identify usability problems more quickly and more often. With access to over a million people, reaching the right users can be done in just a few clicks. Forget Craigslist and other inventive, ad hoc solutions. Through UserTesting, UX designers can filter users by region, demographics, and web expertise, among others. There’s no longer the need to bring users into an artificial lab with unfamiliar tools; they use their own, making it easy to streamline the testing process. You can run a test in minutes and get results the very same day. Through the platform, UX designers can test prototypes at any stage, can run comparative a/b tests, and even conduct longitudinal studies to see how users’ behavior changes over time. Not only can we get our work out faster, we can refine as we go. 

If we’re being honest, user testing has actually been difficult. Snags in the process, ranging from no-shows to failing tech, result not only in frustrated staff but have a real financial impact. Those snags have represented actual dollars lost in the form of time and resources spent getting everything set up in the first place. This is where UserTesting shines. In recognizing that research can be quite expensive, the platform has found ways to cut the costs at a structural level, addressing a very real need in the UX design community. Though we still have to be smart about how we craft and conduct our tests in order to make the most of them, we can now get our designs out farther and faster with UserTesting’s access and tools. 

UserTesting makes it easier for UX designers to conduct borderless research — to collaborate at the global level, but communicate at the local level.

With that said, there is always room for improvement. Looming questions about what can and can’t be done with user testing remain. How can we continue to build on our internal systems to lessen the strain in crossing language barriers? How can we more easily translate our work? Does it matter that we can’t be in the same physical space as our users? If so, how? While UserTesting is quite good for usability testing, is it just as good for user research? What can we do as a community to keep up the good work easing the burden (and expense) of conducting solid research? UserTesting has made it a whole lot easier, so let’s keep up the good work. 

What does good user research look like to you? We’d love to hear your thoughts on the future of user testing!