Aug 8 2011
Last week I had the opportunity to do something that I’ve always wanted. I was a user tester. I know, I know, you’re all jealous. Much to their demise I had been identified as part of their target user base. Little did they realize I’m a staunch opponent of the type of product they’re building. Had I known ahead of time I would have declared my bias to them. No such luck but I enjoyed it anyway.
When I was there I found all the things one might expect from a user study. No, they didn’t have one way mirrors with a panel with what I can only assume are people with lab coats and clipboards behind it. Instead they had a webcam and screencast which displayed my every word and action in the room next store. It was incredibly being able to talk for a full hour without anyone losing interest in what I had to say. In other circles my words are good for around 15 seconds, unless someone has something better to do. It was quite an experience.
Not all companies can afford a full time user testing engineer though. It’s both costly and not part of the critical path of building a product. Or so they think. If your users don’t like your product then it’s not going to be successful. Sure product managers, graphic designers, and developers are capable of conceiving and building a fully functional app, but the users will be the judge of its success. The general rule of thumb is the sooner you can involve users in the design process the better. Changes are more costly as time goes on.
Once teams realize the importance of user testing the next task is to find a cost effective way to do it. Most firms can’t afford a full time UI engineer and consultants aren’t cheap either. A better way to accomplish the same thing is to use Kupima. It’s a UI testing tool that lets you get valuable feedback from users. It’s allows you to test the users while they work from their own computers.
Kupima comes with a wizard to set up your tests. The first thing to do is to create the test. This includes entering basic details such as the number of users to test, the URL, and a description of the scenario or objective. Next is to select the users. Here you can specify the demographics of the users you’d like to test. The meat of the user test consists of creating tasks that users will attempt to accomplish. So if you’ve just built a new registration process a sample task would be to tell a user to register. Tests can include up to 12 tasks depending on which package you sign up for. Each test has a questionnaire associated with it as well to gain insight on specific functions or actions.
One of the most challenging parts of user testing is finding the users. With Kupima you have two options. You can use their prescreened users or you can provide your own. It entirely depends on the needs of the design team to determine which will work for them. Many websites are built for the general public so using their prescreened users would be fine. If you need specialized users such as doctors or lawyers you’re best locating them on your own.
User testing is a lesser known aspect of the design process. Many teams don’t bother with it, and suffer the consequences. At the end of all their hard work users may not like their product. Kupima makes user testing a viable options for all development teams. Its budget friendly service allows you to find out exactly what users think and make improvements accordingly.