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3 Essential Tips for User Testing Prototypes: Advice From Our Agency to Yours

Hannah Alvarez  |  July 06, 2015

Today's guest post comes from Rami Perry, Digital Marketing Consultant at Centresource. Enjoy!


centresource-prototyping-header

Centresource, our mobile and web design development agency, has been around for 12 years---an eternity in digital---and in that time, one of our biggest learnings is this: Never underestimate the power of prototypes.

We're passionate about creating high-fidelity, clickable prototypes early in the development process for clients, whether for an app, site, or other product---especially for complex projects.

Never underestimate the power of prototypes.

[Tweet this.]

Why? Because prototyping gives us and our clients the ability to validate business strategy, design, UX, pricing, and marketing assumptions---both big and small---before actually building.

Over the past year, we've taken our prototyping a step further and frequently integrated user testing into the process---which has been hugely beneficial for both us and our clients.

Why we user test prototypes

We've user tested pricing models, features, user experience, and market positioning. Then we've gone back, reworked our prototypes, and tested again.

This combination of high-quality prototypes and user testing has helped us a lot; often confirming what we've suspected, or giving us unexpected insights. It has also given our clients the confidence to proceed and move forward---or sometimes to shift and go in a different direction.

For a number of our clients, the user tested prototypes have actually helped launch their companies. These businesses have commissioned user tested prototypes before doing anything else, then gone to investors to seek company funding, or sponsor funds to build the product.

Having these high-quality prototypes and feedback from real people led to millions of dollars in funding for our clients.

We've even had a client user test design slides---not even a full prototype---then go to his board of directors. It gave him the ability to walk into the room and say, "Here's the feedback we've already received. These completely objective people gave us these insights; this is when they told us they'd use the product and how they would use it."

In our experience, these are the three keys to user testing prototypes:

1. Start with an open mind

As you test, users might shoot down your initial assumptions. While that may feel discouraging, many of these discoveries can be hugely valuable if you're open to understanding them.

2. Be thoughtful about the tasks and questions in your user testing

To get the most out of your tests, it's essential to structure them properly. We love this post, which provides an excellent overview of writing good baseline questions. This piece is also great for thinking about how to use the feedback.

3. Test an outlier group

It can be very valuable to test beyond your perceived target audience to to see if there's a market share you've not fully considered. We also use UserTesting to help prioritize our key user groups by looking at factors like: Who responded most favorably? Who said they would use this technology? Etc.

Often agencies grapple with having to justify the cost of user testing prototypes to clients. However, in our experience, the huge benefits---real feedback from real people on everything from design to the underlying business model -- are invaluable. Ultimately, it's far more expensive, and risky, to not prototype and test.

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About the author:

Hannah is a content manager, dedicated to helping marketers and designers build amazing experiences. In her free time, she likes making things and going on adventures.