Section 508

April 16th, 2014

User Testing – It’s a critical step, but will you pass the test?

Earlier this year, we reviewed the successes and failures of more than 1,000 apps, which we have developed for our clients. The analysis and review process covered every aspect from utility and entertainment value, user research, user experience, social engagement, in-house or outsourced development, performance, development methodology (web-app, native or hybrid), to available time and budget for each project.

We found that although all aspects have an important role to play, there are five elements that essentially determine whether your app will be successful or not. We will share these findings as part of a five-part series, starting with user testing, which very well may be the most important.

User testing is perhaps the most imperative aspect of app development and certainly not something you should omit from the process. If you test the app with users throughout the development process, it is very likely that your app will reflect what users actually want. Waiting to carry out user testing (gauge user’s reaction) after the app is available in the app store may mean you developed something which does not serve or appeal to users at all. Or perhaps, you may try to develop an app that is completely flawless before launch and it could mean running out of time or budget. Additionally, without user testing you may develop an app which completely incorporates your requirements as a brand or company, but fails to take into account what users will find engaging.

If it is so advantageous, why do many developers and brands still exclude user testing from the overall development phase?

Here is a selection of the most frequently used excuses:

“I want the users to test the finished app, not before.” – Product Owner

“We lack the resources and time to carry out user testing.” – Project Manager

“I am unsure how to carry out user testing.” – Developer

“The budget and timeline agreed upon are fixed and do not allow for user testing.” – Project Manager

“User testing is not something for which we have the tools to carry out.” – Account Manager

On the contrary, we’ve found that involvement of users in the development process doesn’t have to be difficult.  This is all you need:

  • A minimum of 14 people who are not involved or have vested interests in the project (You can use smaller groups but we find that 14 people gives a good  enough sample)
  • A distribution tool, such as Testflight on iOS devices for the test version of the app
  • A distribution list/e-mail list of the participants
  • A feedback/survey tool such as SurveyMonkey for the users to respond anonymously
  • A project Sprint plan that allows for user testing to take place and feedback to be addressed
  • An agreed upon method between the customer / product owner on how to address feedback and review the project scope as required
  • A test plan from the first design iteration to launch, which includes the activities listed above

The above list represents a basic user testing process and although there are more sophisticated methods to carry out testing, what matters most is that you do it as part of every project.

Also, Forrester recently released a report titled “A Benchmark To Drive Mobile Test Quality”, which you may find interesting.

At DMI, the mobile application solution team is committed to carrying out user testing as an integral part of every project. If you have any questions about our tools or methods, please contact us through the contacts page on our website.

Also, please keep a look-out for our upcoming posts in this series, where we will be sharing what we believe are the secrets to guaranteeing the success of your mobile solution!

Tags: App development QA testing

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