First day being a User Testing Participant

Wednesday 2 November 2011 - Filed under Usability News

As a Usability engineer I have gained quite a lot of experience through nearly 10 years of commitment to how people research and observe to gain a better understanding of natural human behaviour. My particular field of expertise has been the study of interactions with digital interfaces, mostly web sites. I wonder what its like to be a participant in a Usability test

Here at Testing User we have developed a product that allows you the opportunity to connect with your users in their real world environment. You might have heard us brag a little about how familiar our User Testing panel is with the software and how it allows for real User interaction.

Yesterday though I got an opportunity to enlist in a Testing User study being done for a new client. My first chance after years of conducting studies to actually participate as a real world user and see how our new system performs.

Once I completed the online assessment it was straight into the survey. The Testing User platform looks great and really was an improvement on the previous version. I was then presented with the survey particular to that client which I completed in about 40 minutes. An about average time.

The biggest surprise of all to me was how much I found myself having an opinion on everything. When compared to the competitions website the Usability issues can become more apparent. Testing the new platform out myself though reaffirmed my belief in User Testing as one of the best tools for gaining valuable insight into customer behavior.

I mean as I said my area of expertise is Usability Testing but as I worked my way through the survey and made my decisions I found myself specializing in web design and photoshop. I had to put this down to the Testing User survey design because I believe it inspires the participant to be honest about their perceptions of a website.

Once all the data from the Testing panel is received back part of the package is that we quantify and present the findings to you. This is where my skills work best and the job transfers over to me because if you ask me to be a good Usability consultant you must instruct clearly, support your participants and stay neutral. The size of a typical Testing User panel is 150, so this would suggest it might be more difficult to be as thorough with the feedback from every tester.

This would be right. Which is why we take advantage of sophisticated survey software to ensure you don’t loose any data quality. Each individual User opinion is analysed and produced into a presentation ready report.

Going through the process from start to finish like I did today made me think about how valuable User Testing can be if done right. By right I mean every bit of the package we sell has to be right. Client feedback would suggest that the price is certainly being embraced and the number of testers involved is tempting more and more repeat business.

It got me thinking that nearly everyone involved in product design conducts market research at some point to determine the best branding for their product. Furthermore they use it to identify target markets and maybe even gain a competitive advantage. What about if traditional market research was replaced by User Testing theory to identify what that exact User Experience is?

It may sound a little extreme but that’s the way the markets going. Towards more remote Usability methods that allow for larger numbers of participant along with targeted demographics. So you pay less and you get more. When comparing UX testing to market research we see they both try to answer the same questions about a products perception. The potential for UX testing though allows for huge savings of cost and Effort.

2011-11-02  »  Sam

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