User testing

User testing is like teenage sex

User testing is like teenage sex: everyone talks about it, nobody really knows how to do it, everyone thinks everyone else is doing it. So everyone claims they are doing it…

I know, it applies to other ideals as well (big data, internal audits, user research) but user testing is among those few that are beyond mandatory: they are vital for decency.

Do you know how professional user testing happens ?

Ever seen an episode of Lie to me ?

They have this fancy, state of the art lab where they bring in the poor subjects and using hi res cameras, software, experience and a keen sense of observation, turn images and data into viable conclusions regarding the validity of their answers.

It’s pretty much the same thing for user experience testing except, instead of stressing the subject with a cold, naked and inquisitive environment you’re trying to get as close as possible to its natural habitat: a couch in the living room in front of the TV, the desk at the office in the open space or even the comfy toilet seat, perfect for reading news and playing a quick game.

Now, these lab based UX tests are thought to be the closest thing to what happens in real life and there fore relevant. They also cost about as much as a pro recording studio charges. So … they’re kinda expensive and only the big players get to play.

Cheaper alternatives

If you’re a startup or a middle sized company with a mature product due to launch a new version of its niched web app you may wanna look into cheaper alternatives: Silverback, Morae or UserTesting and the list could continue based on needs and budget.

However, none of the them truly delivers the best case scenario: testing the website or app right in your home, at your desk, without having to install fancy software on specific platforms.

The sweet spot

The other day I attended UXA’s monthy beer session and found out about this new kid on the block, taking shape and growing strong to make your life easier. It works straight out of the browser window, records the interaction with the screen and if you’re using a laptop, user’s reactions via webcam.

UX Probe is sexy. Still a kid but one with more than potential and ready to ease the pain of user testing for your website or web app.

And since we’re discussing the best way to make sure we get valid feedback from the users, a good friend of mine is due to launch a serious bias deterrent: Unbias. Keep an eye on their proposal, it might reshape your experiences.

Whether it’s user testing,  looking for alternate angles to adjust your perspective or, well … sex,  don’t stop till you get enough!

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