You’d never publish an app without QA testing it. But QA testing alone won’t tell you whether your real users are going to understand (or like) your product—or whether you’ll be condemned to months of one-star reviews and correcting mistakes that could have been avoided.
To keep that from happening, you need to get feedback from real people. And to save time and hassle, the earlier you get that feedback, the better. If you can get real users to try out your prototype, you can quickly validate or pivot your design decisions without wasting engineering time.
For working in a short prototyping cycle, Google recommends a 5-day design sprint, where the team spends Monday through Thursday designing the prototype and Friday conducting the user research.
The problem is that doing a day of in-house user interviews can put a stop to your productivity. Recruiting the right users can can take longer than building the prototype. Maybe you have a niche audience. Or maybe your office is in a big, tech-savvy city, but most of your users will be in smaller towns all over the country. How can you be sure your test participants actually represent the end user?
Or what if you recruit the right users, but only a fraction of them show up on research day?
That’s why a lot of developers skip the user research phase and miss out on the user feedback on their prototypes.
If you use an online tool (like UserTesting) to do your user research, you get the same rich user feedback without having to deal with the logistics of in-person user interviews. Just choose your target audience, write the tasks you want them to complete, and wait for their video/audio recordings to come back.
You’ll typically get results back in about an hour—a fraction of the time it would take to conduct tests in-house. That means you can get back to work faster, with near-real-time, low-friction feedback from real users.
You don’t need to wait all week to get user feedback when you can get the same results online in an hour. With online user research, you can run a very rapid series of experiments to validate your idea, or figure out exactly what you should pivot to, at any point. For each iteration, you can continue to get feedback and adjust as you go along, without slowing down the agile cycle. No scheduling interviews, no hassle, just real user feedback.
When you conduct your user research, you’re trying to either validate your prototype or figure out what to fix. Keep an eye out for these things:
Once you’ve spent weeks on an app, it’s impossible to see it with fresh eyes, from the perspective of a first-time user. What seems completely intuitive may be confusing, or even invisible, to your users. That’s why observing the first-time user experience with real people is so important.
Each new user brings a new perspective to the product. You’ll hear them speak their thoughts aloud and see exactly where they get stuck or confused. You’ll find out whether the learning curve is too steep, whether the onboarding process is helpful, and whether the user feels engaged with the product after using it only once.
Ask users to attempt to find key features or pieces of information and then watch how they would naturally go about getting there. Does anything seem out of place to them? How many attempts does it take them to get where they’re trying to go?
Are there any features you’ve included that users don’t care about? Any design choices that throw the user off? Get rid of them now without any sunk costs.
If you get real user feedback during the prototyping phase, you’ll know you’re on the right track, and you’ll save a lot of time, money, and hassle in development. By taking your research online, you can get more feedback, faster, and without slowing down your agile cycle. Keep doing research throughout the development cycle, and you can be certain that users will understand and love your app.
To learn more, grab our eBook on testing mobile app prototypes with users!
Get our best human insight resources delivered right to your inbox every month. As a bonus, we'll send you our latest industry report: When business is human, insights drive innovation.