How to effectively test during every stage of development

Posted on June 11, 2019
3 min read


It is widely known that a majority—up to 80%—of new products fail. The reasons are manifold. Perhaps the new product couldn’t oust a longtime customer favorite. Maybe the new product was aesthetically wonderful but was also so hard to use that everyone gave up. Or maybe, despite being a superior product, the marketing and go-to-market (GTM) failed to compel. Despite the best-laid plans and substantial investments of time and resources, failure to (successfully) launch happens all the time. While there’s always some risk in new endeavors, you can hedge your bets by ensuring that you understand customer expectations at every step of your development process. Doing so allows you to identify and remedy small problems along the way before they have the chance to become critical issues down the line. Our new guide, Testing at every stage of the development cycle, provides tips and customer examples to help you understand how to select the best testing method (between self-guided (unmoderated) testing and interviews using a solution like Live Conversation) to gather qualitative insights during every stage of development.

1. Early stage discovery

Conducting an interview allows you to adapt to the twists and turns in the conversation, to delve deeper into topics and spontaneously head into unexpected (but very valuable) areas. This is helpful during the discovery phase when you are at a starting stage and in search of clarity on areas of opportunity. You don’t yet have a product idea or an endpoint in mind. If you’re short on time, you can also do discovery via self-guided testing. Keep your questions and tasks open-ended, for example: Task: Go to the URL for a brand that you would visit to complete [activity X] Task: Explain why you selected that brand Task: Tell us about the last time you completed [activity X] Task: Now, show us how you did that At this stage, you can also get feedback on initial concept ideas before moving forward with any designs.

2. Prototyping

When you have some early sketches or designs, get feedback to validate usability before investing resources to build it out. If you're using a third-party prototyping tool, you can publish a URL or otherwise find a way to host and share your designs (like Google Drive, Dropbox or other hosting solutions) to display during self-guided tests. Some customers tell us that they're concerned about sharing early-stage designs for feedback. Even though they know that testing usability is important, they worry about these designs getting into the wrong hands. Others tell us that high-fidelity prototypes can sometimes be confusing to testers during self-guided tests. For example, testers don’t realize they're interacting with a prototype and comment that they can’t click and navigate the page. For these challenges, you can use live sessions, using screen sharing functionality to maintain control and offer assistance while gathering feedback on early designs.

>> Download now: Testing at every stage of the development cycle

3. Development and pre-launch

Get feedback as you reach each milestone to ensure that you end up where you planned. And if feedback indicates that there’s a problem or something requires attention, you'll have the opportunity to fix these issues before proceeding to the next milestone. With self-guided testing, you can share a link (plus any necessary login information) for testers to access your staging environment so you can see how they attempt to accomplish tasks using the product at that point. If your product is currently on a staging environment and sharing credentials makes you nervous, you can also share your screen during a Live Conversation session. You can even give the tester mouse or keyboard control during the session to give them more free reign as they interact with the experience. It’s also worth noting that marketing and other GTM teams are preparing their campaigns, messaging, and other promotional assets at this time. These projects also benefit from customer feedback before they go live.

4. Post-launch

Even after a new feature, product, or campaign has launched, you’ll want to keep monitoring to address problems or to keep evolving the experience. If there are areas that pique your interest—like low user adoption, high drop-off, or unexpected user flows—you can test these specific areas or scenarios using self-guided testing. You’ll get a more holistic understanding of why customers are behaving a certain way which can inform additional adjustments. You can also conduct interviews following a launch. The conversational style of an interview enables you to hear everything and anything that customers are thinking about your newly-released product. You can even compare this feedback to what you learned during the discovery phase to see if your designs address the problems that were previously identified.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to learn how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through on-demand human insight, contact us here.

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