As part of our Conversations with Caxy series where we talk to our team about the things they do every day, today we talk with Liz Composto, UX Designer here at Caxy. She is talking to us about user testing.


To get things started, how would you describe a user test in your own words?

User testing is a way to verify your assumptions about design, find potential usability errors, and understand your target audience’s experience with a product. If you have two options for a design, test both with your users. If you can’t figure out why a button goes unclicked, test the UI with your users. If you have a big idea for a product, test it with your users.

How did you get started with user testing?

I actually first learned about user testing from being part of a user test! At my college, we had an incentive to get a $100 gift card to the campus bookstore if we were a part of a user test. We had to demo an e-reader. During the test, they showed the e-reader on an ipad, and we flipped through mockups. They had us think through the process of using it, and give them feedback. At the time, I had no idea what usability testing was or that I’d be conducting tests myself years later.

At what part of a project do you think it’s best to stop and test?

It really depends on the projects. In Agile, it’s an interesting challenge. Do you do them every sprint? Do you do them in stages? It really depends on when you’re working with. It’s usually when you have something to test. The test should allow you to move on to the next feature successfully, or make the appropriate iterations and changes based off the test results.

How many users did you test?

The magic number is 5. If you put your work in front of 1 user, they will find 30% of the usability problems. The more you test, the more the percentage will increase. After 5, you are starting to hear the same feedback. It’s estimated that testing about 5 users gets about 85% of the problems discovered.

What would you say is the most valuable part of user testing?

In design you can make assumptions about what you think a user should expect based on your own experiences, when really it's the user's experience that matters. When writing a paper, you can miss things; missed commas, spelling errors, etc. Design is like that too. You are presenting work to potential users before launching your design to the public, so you want to make sure it is accurate, and to make sure you didn’t miss anything. That is where user testing comes in.

What’s been the most surprising thing to come out of a user test?

Subtle things that people point out can be surprising. Sometimes little things that pop up are what surprise you the most.

What resources are best for user testing?

When it comes to making surveys, Google Surveys is great. Optimizely works great for that as well. Another resource could be testing with another UX expert. The community in Chicago is great, and you can ask peers to do a heuristic evaluation of your design, which is a great way to find usability issues before testing with your users.

Where do you find users?

There are different methods to finding users - it depends on how you want to do it. With Optimizely, you can set demos to fit your persona. People will then be prompted to do complete tasks within your product. Another way is Gorilla testing (hitting the streets) with users testing on your phone, tablet, or laptop.

Where should people that want to get started with User Testing look?

Jakob Nielson is a great resource. He is the founder of everything users! That is my go-to for usability. Some of his books include “Mobile Usability” and “Eyetracking Web Usability.”

Do you have a question about user testing? Contact us - We're happy to help. 

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