In UX, we are all aware that user testing is a crucial step before a product or feature launch. However, a one-and-done approach is not a smart way to do user testing.
This is where the importance of a continuous user testing strategy comes in. In this article on Continuous user testing, we will get to know what user testing is and why this strategy is important as a long-term strategy involving your product’s and teams success.
We will also discuss the following:
In user testing, UX researchers recognize the limits of the products and learn why consumers behave a certain way. We gain these insights by conducting continuous user tests or through observing the users interact with your product, website, or digital app, performing tasks you ask them to do, and talking to them afterward.
These are basically the foundation of good user testing, where you learn valuable insights as to why your target audience behaves a certain way when it comes to interacting with your product.
What is continuous user testing?
Continuous user testing is a technique where the UX team aggressively and iteratively runs user tests to validate the stated hypotheses.
The continuous user testing method plays an important role in guiding the UX design team, and it’s a technique that could benefit other teams in UX as well.
The benefits of a continuous user testing strategy
Since continuous user testing can spot good insights from the start of the UX user research, it allows designers and developers to make important corrections early in the process.
In any UX project, you can expect 100 times the development cost when it comes to fixing an error after development.
Thus, ensuring your product’s functionality before building upon it, can make a huge difference in the overall cost.
As part of the development workflow, UX designers and developer teams can take more time to focus and get engaged in the process. In turn, it results to quickly spotting data and insights that save time.
Most of the time, the UI and UX designers spent more time creating an unnecessary user interface or features.
However, when continuous usability testing is built and integrated within the UX routine sprints, the entire UX team can stay user-focused during the prototype stage and until the product’s release.
Helps keep up with changes
It is not safe to assume that the user testing done during development is sufficient enough for the entire product’s life cycle.
The same can be said even if the product’s main function is not dynamic or changes over time. You need to still consider the digital devices and platforms that may change such as operating systems updates, changing web browsers, or emerging new digital devices like tablets and smart TVs.
Thus, it is crucial to do periodic spot checks, which helps UX designers and researchers notice and fix issues in features as they come.
Keeps You Competitive
When it comes to market context changes, it goes to follow the changes in the users’ expectations.
Like for example, Instagram’s continuous scroll function has become the norm for social media users, and thus, this features has been adapted by other social platforms as well like Facebook.
Continuous user testing helps you keep up with the way people use your competitors’ products. This way, you can guarantee the functionality of your product is up to date and contemporary to the ever-changing user’s needs. This is the key to maintaining the product’s relevance is to always know how the users behave and get their feedback.
Provides Measurable Data
The user feedback that you get from user testing is considered an asset when it comes to influencing decision-makers within the company and with prospective clients with user feedback.
Clients want to know and are guaranteed that before they invest in a product, the product should be easily adopted by its users and won’t have to require time-consuming training or expensive set-up costs.
Continuous user testing can provide the sales team members with the user data and feedback they need to demonstrate the product as intuitive to use and quick to get up and running.
Best practices for continuous testing in user research
Keep things simple
When it comes to user tests, things can be overdone. However, user tests don’t need to be like this.
In most cases, UX researchers only need a website or a prototype, the written form tasks, questions for user feedback, and the test participants.
In each test session, you can easily record the session using a webcam, screencast, or audio recording. It is unnecessary to use additional tools other than the tools mentioned above.
You may use a partner to take feedback notes while someone is supervising the test sessions. This is very handy when it comes to creating quick summaries.
Always test with real users
One of the most essential things when it comes to properly conducting a continuous user test is to regularly test real users for the key metrics.
There is no hard rule when it comes to the frequency of user testing, but we recommend biweekly cycle tests for practicality.
Also, you need to take the scheduled dates seriously. When you find your user tests a regular routine, you’ll know how valuable these qualitative insights are and things will be easier when it comes to keeping appointments.
It’s also advisable to avoid inviting more than four test subjects per day. This will prevent you from spending excessive time and effort on testing. At least you need to have a more or less normal workday and consider the test sessions like ordinary meetings.
Always clarify things from the very beginning.
When it comes to testing a product, users usually enter their real data, which is good when it comes to catching the real user behavior. However, this may lead to some confusion as well.
For example, in the staging system of sending the test product to the participant’s house, the test participants may feel tricked when they receive the order and shipping confirmation emails after placing the test order. In this case, make sure all information is handed to them to avoid confusion.
Weigh the pros and cons with power users
While you can take advantage when it comes to the user feedback from power users, their ideas are sometimes too strong and may not be beneficial for your test group. It can be a challenge when it comes to whether a power user’s idea is of general interest, so weigh your tem opinions with care.
Additional tips to keep in mind during the test sessions
When inviting test participants
It should be pretty straightforward when it comes to inviting existing customers.
As much as possible, only invite several customers who live within a 30-minutes radius of your testing place.
Also, send the test invites within the week of your scheduled test. By experience, customers are most likely to show up when they receive the invitation within a week in advance. Plus, a reminder invite was sent a couple of days before the testing date.
When writing your invitation email
Properly address your customers personally. It really does not require so much effort for the user experience UX team members to personally invite test users participants since you are not going to be inviting hundreds of test subjects anyway. We found out that exerting additional effort help increase the chances that customers will accept the invitation.
Do not focus on aligning the text with marketing. The letter should be a team personal invitation and not a sales email.
Also, you do not have to offer compensation to the test participants. While this is a good idea, a “small thank-you” would do. Just make sure that everything is said in the open before the testing begins so as not to raise expectations too high. In any case, you want participants who are willing to help and not the ones who merely want to receive free gifts.
Which device to use
Most of the time, the test participants are not required to bring their own personal devices to test sessions.
And even if they can, it is not recommended to let them use their own device as there can be several hassles that can occur during the test session.
For example, you can save time when it comes to using password-protected staging versions on company-issued computers compared to connecting external devices to internal WIFI.
However, you should also consider the possibility of testing on an unfamiliar device, which can be difficult for some test participants. Chances are that the test participants may struggle with an unfamiliar device like the keyboard layout.
In this case, we recommend that you offer options to your test participants so they can pick their device preference based on the device they are most familiar with.
Additionally, if you already have a live version of your product, we recommend that you let the participants test the product on their own devices at the end of the test session. This may provide you with valuable insights like user issues that you are not familiar with.
The approach to continuous user testing would always be different based on the product, website, or digital app you are testing.
For example, when it comes to maintaining an existing product, we recommend that you schedule a small-scale user check-in quarterly or yearly.
With testing a new product, we recommend that you combine methods of user research sprints throughout the development timeline. This will be helpful as a real-time guide in feature development.
As we live in a rapid and ever-changing technology era, it is essential that your product meets your user’s needs and expectations.
Continuous user testing as part of the product’s long-term strategy is the key to a successful product.