User testing requires a test participant to complete a set of tasks using a product either in a lab or in a real world environment. Depending on the maturity of the idea, testing might be conducted with a prototype or real product. It’s possible to define two main categories of user testing as moderated and unmoderated testing–the difference being the presence of a skilled moderator.
Typically, user testing starts with defining your testing goals–UX practitioners should know what they want to achieve by testing a product. As soon as goals are identified, it’s possible to define critical metrics for user testing; the most common are success rate and time to complete a task. After this, you can choose your relevant methods of testing.
Common user testing methods include guerilla testing, lab usability testing, remote usability testing, contextual inquiries, and card sorting. With so many different user testing methods, it’s often difficult to select the best one for your product. The user testing method you choose should align with both your resources and your objectives. Consider how much time you have to invest in finding relevant test participants–people who represent your target audience and are ready to participate in the testing. It’s also recommended to pair user testing with an expert review, also known as heuristic evaluation.
It’s essential to build time to analyze test results into your testing schedule. Depending on the type of testing, this step might take anywhere from a few hours (if testing was conducted automatically) to a few weeks (e.g., moderated testing with a large number of test participants without automation). The findings should always be provided clearly and unobtrusively, so everyone on a product team can access and understand them and feel confident making product design decisions. Read on for more details about user testing options and for the latest developments in UX design knowledge.