In this guide

The ultimate guide to user-centric product design
Chapter 4

How product designers test their designs

Product design testing methods are the approaches and techniques design teams use to evaluate their product's functionality, usability, performance, and quality during its design and development stages. With these methods, design teams can uncover potential issues, validate design decisions, and confirm whether the final product will meet its target audience's needs and expectations.

You can use several methods to conduct product testing, including usability testing, prototype testing, A/B testing, and many others. Each method serves a specific purpose in assessing different aspects of the product’s design and functionality, with the end goal being to create the best possible product.

When to test in the product design process

Ideally, you should conduct product testing throughout the product design process, starting from the early stages of concept development and continuing through prototyping, iteration, and refinement. 

Testing should occur regularly to collect feedback, validate assumptions, and improve your design based on user insights. This way, your design team constantly addresses user needs, resulting in a final product that meets expectations and gives users a positive experience.

Examples of product design testing methods

Let’s take a look at some of the many tests design teams can use during the product design testing process. Each of these testing methods has its own strengths and weaknesses, and your choice of method—or combination of methods—will depend on factors like the product development stage, available resources, and the goals of your UX design team’s testing process.

Concept validation 

Understand your customers’ needs by gathering insights during the early stages of product development. 

Regardless of your goal, as soon as you have a concept in mind, even if it’s just a sketch on a whiteboard, run a few quick tests with customers and potential customers to validate that your design team is on the right track. Gathering customer insight early on can save time and budget later on in development.

Remote, live customer interviews are a great place to start during early-stage discovery and validation. Gathering feedback via interview enables your team to have open-ended discussions about a variety of topics, ask customers about their habits, and even have them complete specific tasks. Interviews also enable teams to ask follow-up questions and observe non-verbal cues, helping them quickly gather critical insights that will drive more informed design decisions.

Concept validation template

A/B Testing with qualitative context 

Combine qualitative feedback with A/B testing to refine designs and achieve better outcomes. 

A/B tests compare two designs against each other to see which one people prefer, but only one in eight A/B tests leads to significant change on average. Get direct customer feedback first to hone in on the greatest pain points and areas of opportunity, then A/B test variations to strategically fine-tune your experience.

It’s best to get a sense of your customers’ preferences and expectations before narrowing down specific options to A/B test. This ensures that you are in the right “neighborhood” before you hone in on the exact “house.” Additionally, when you have A/B test data, the qualitative component will help you understand why customers voice a preference for one design or image over another.

Website conversion template

Prototyping

Validate design usability with feedback to make necessary adjustments before full development.

​​If you're short on time, remote self-guided tests are a great option. Provide a link to your design from your chosen design tool or hosting solution. If secure prototype hosting is an option, you can upload your prototype directly to your insights platform and ask for feedback.

If you have a more complex design that might be confusing or isn't fully functional, live customer interviews are a great option. This gives you control over when, where, and with whom your designs are shared, allowing you to guide test participants should they encounter challenges.

Prototyping template

Survey validation 

Surveys are powerful, but you need to make sure you’re asking the right questions before launching them. Test the design and questions for comprehension first, ensuring they’re clear and result in the types of responses you’re seeking, then release it into the wild.

Value proposition validation template

Customer Journey Mapping

Track customer interactions with your brand to improve the user experience from start to finish.

By observing customers and prospects—from initial perception to final steps in their decision-making process—you’re in the passenger’s seat in understanding the customer journey. And these insights can help you generate ideas on what to change to improve everything from awareness to conversion.

Customer journey template

Mobile validation

At the heart of every successful company is a customer-centric mindset that relies on human insights at every stage of development, on every device, and on every channel to keep creating great experiences for their customers.

Testing your mobile experiences with real users throughout your development cycle will help you discover the drivers of behaviors on mobile, including why users abandon apps, what fuels frequent usage, and how you can improve experiences to drive greater adoption. Not sure what customers think of your mobile app? Try the template below and get actionable insights fast.

Mobile app evaluation template

Competitive analysis 

Learn from competitor analysis to enhance your product's market position. You can run user tests on competitive experiences to understand how your target customers feel about them. When you understand your competitors' competitive advantage or weaknesses, you can make the improvements that help you surge ahead and win more business.

Competitor evaluation template

Card sort and information architecture

Use a card sorting exercise to understand how users navigate information. 

Whether you’re redesigning a complex web or mobile application or curating website content for prospective buyers, get insight on optimizing information architecture, so that you are effectively guiding customers through an optimal workflow or a customer journey that ends in conversion.

Card sorting template

Real-world experiences

Capture authentic user interactions in their everyday environments helps designersGain the most authentic lifestyle insights, as customers freely move about in their native settings. Using the back-facing camera on their phones, participants can record their experience at home, in-store, at competitor stores, or really anywhere, giving you the most direct view of how they live and make decisions.

Customer environment and context template
 

Sample questions to ask in product design testing

During product design testing, gathering feedback from test users is critical if you want to understand their perspectives and create a user-centric product. Asking targeted questions during product design and prototype testing gives insight into usability, pain points, and overall UX.

Background and context

  • Are you familiar with products like this? Can you briefly describe your experiences?
  • In what situations or scenarios do you see yourself using this product?

First impressions

  • What are your first thoughts or impressions about this product?
  • Is there anything that stands out to you positively or negatively?

Usability and functionality

  • Can you navigate through the product easily? Are there any areas where you had difficulty?
  • Were you able to complete the assigned tasks easily?
  • Which features did you find most useful or appealing?
  • Are there any other features, functionalities, or improvements you would like to see in the product?

User experience and user interface

  • How do you feel about the overall design and layout?
  • Are there any specific interface elements that you particularly like or dislike?
  • How would you describe your overall experience while using the product?
  • Were there any aspects of the product that made your experience better or worse?

Preferences and suggestions

  • Do you have any feedback or suggestions for improving the product?
  • Is there anything else you'd like to share about your experience with the prototype?
  • How does this product compare to other similar products you’ve used?
  • Do you have a preference for this product over others? If so, why?

Expectations and needs

  • Does this product meet your expectations for a product like this?
  • Are there any specific needs this prototype addresses or fails to address for you?
  • Would you be likely to use or buy this product in the future? Why or why not?
  • Would you be likely to recommend this product to others? Why or why not?

Navigating the future of digital product design

In our comprehensive guide to product design, we’ve explored what product design is, what product designers do, the intricacies of the design process, and the array of testing methods and design tools at our disposal. 

As design teams and product designers work to create beautiful and impactful user experiences, they must do so with a deep understanding of customers’ pain points and a commitment to innovation. The best product designers continue learning, growing, and focusing on creating products that are directly linked to specific user needs and based on a foundation of human insight. 

Webinar: Measuring the value of your design team's research and insights

Join Jason Giles, VP, Product Design and Brian Hoadley, Transformation Consultant at kreatechange, as they share best practices for design teams to quantify the value of their research and insights and how to connect it back to tangible business objectives.