User Testing: Your Ideal Sample Set
Business is about perspective and those that fail to grasp it are headed towards a real slippery slope. Sounds like an exaggeration? Unfortunately, it is the simple and absolute truth. Business is all about how potential users see your product and the experience they cultivate with it. However, it’s much more nuanced than a simple cause-and-effect relationship. To put it plainly, if users enjoy using your product, they’re more likely to become paying or even long-term customers. Even the best of products with unparalleled deliverables can end up in the box if the user perception and experience are overlooked. This is why companies are inclined to expend significant resources to perform user testing prior to or during the development process.
User testing in itself is a complex process that requires considerable planning and its success often hinges on the pool of participants invited to test the product. Therefore, choosing the perfect sample set of users is just as vital as the test itself. Before we delve into the intricacies of the ideal sample set, let’s examine User Testing more closely.
What is User Testing?
User Testing or User Experience Testing is one of the oldest forms of market research. Although the origins of the concept are not well known, user testing has garnered a huge amount of attention since the beginning of the 20th century. Enterprises, both big and small, were keen to check if their product added value to their customers and whether these users were able to utilize the particular product to its utmost with ease.
User testing can be conducted at any stage of the product development lifecycle. From the inception till after the launch, user testing is very much relevant to the product’s success. Each stage features a different variation of the user test. At the start, following the ideation stage, user testing is more concerned with identifying whether users have a need for that kind of product. At this stage, potential users are asked whether they connect with the product idea and are willing to give it a try once launched. Responses at this stage will give you a more holistic insight into whether you should go forward with the idea and build a prototype or reframe the initial conception. Following this, a prototype is developed. At this stage, user testing is more concerned with pinpointing the usability flaws in the prototype in order to come up with a more advanced iteration that eliminates them. Finally, once the product is launched, user testing can still be conducted to build on the initial version to fix bugs and incorporate more features.
Why is User Testing Important?
User testing helps you understand how the user perceives your product. Here are the main benefits to user testing:
- Helps to validate your idea at its inception, thereby saving you time and effort in the long run
- Confirm whether the chosen UX design is the best fit for your product.
- Check for errors in programming or any stray bugs that found their way into the code.
- Assess with clarity the reaction of the participants to gain insight into how a potential user would react.
Why does the sample set matter?
As described earlier, testing is the first look into your product’s performance. Naturally, every care should be taken to ensure it happens smoothly. From allocating personnel to organizing the test environment, there are numerous factors that require due consideration. However, during all the bustle, a key component is often overlooked – the test participants. The importance of choosing the right participants can never be stressed enough. This is because all the data and feedback collected will be made void if the participants do not reflect the real users, thereby throwing the whole exercise into disarray. So, how do choose them correctly? Let’s take a look.
A sample is defined as a ‘subset of manageable size’ that is representative of the target population. The reason a sample is chosen for most research-based activities is that it is impossible to get the opinion or feedback of everyone in the target user base. Moreover, if the user base is not defined, then the target user base itself is unknown. Thus, a sample offers a better logistical resolution for the whole process. Sampling as an activity becomes slightly complicated due to certain boxes it needs to check. So, here are a few pointers to keep in mind when choosing your target sample set.
Reflect & Represent
The sample size should be representative of your target demographic. Say for instance that your company just launched a pet care app. Your target audience is young pet owners under the age of 30. Naturally, this group should form the largest percentage of your target demographic. However, other pet owners can also make use of your product albeit at a much lower proportion. Thus, members of that pool should also be selected for the sample set. This illustrates the most basic selection criteria for choosing the ideal sample set. The sample-set should always mirror that of the audience you will be marketing your products to and should be narrowed down and stratified as much as possible. In addition to providing pertinent feedback, you will also be able to ascertain the limitations of your product with this strategy more efficiently.
Tally with the Buyer Persona
A buyer persona is a simulated description of the individual who will be buying your product. It is generated to understand how your potential user would look in real life. A buyer persona answers the question â€˜why a user buys your product’. It should be noted that a single product can have multiple buyer personas. In addition to helping tailor marketing campaigns, these buyer personas can serve as valuable screening tools when selecting user participants. Once you have scheduled a user test, conduct interviews for test participants and pick the ones that match the buyer persona. This is a surefire way to build the perfect sample set.
Never Repeat Participants
This is a golden rule in most sampling techniques – avoid repetition. Test participants should always be unique for every iteration of a user test. Prior exposure to the product or an understanding of its mechanism can significantly skew the results of your test. Moreover, test users are selected to help you uncover aspects of the design that you missed. Someone who already used the product or taken the test before adds no value as you will be receiving the same feedback from them. Finally, repeat participants already formed an opinion of the product and they will be approaching any subsequent tests with that preconceived notion. However, there are certain scenarios where such participants are needed. For instance, if you are looking to see what your customers think following a launch, then it’s perfectly fine to do a user test including them.
The Size of the Sample Set
This is a slightly contentious area as there is really no set rule here. This is because of a certain trade-off involved. A larger sample set offers more attuned insights as the opinions of a higher number of people are collected. However, a larger sample set leads to numerous logistical bottlenecks as well. It is more expensive to accommodate a diverse array of test participants in addition to the time and effort involved. Thus, a middle ground must be found to determine the most feasible size for your sample. To start with, you need to identify the resources at your disposal. Secondly, make a tally of objectives. Match the two in order to arrive at the ideal sample size.
Employ a Screener Questionnaire
Selecting participants at random is definitely not a smart strategy. Also, conducting detailed interviews for each participant is simply not sustainable. So, what’s the solution? A simple screener questionnaire will do the trick. Create a multiple-choice questionnaire and hand them over to those willing to participate in your tests. Shortlist the ones that check all the right boxes and interview this comparatively manageable number of individuals. This is a neat little trick that can be executed with minimal deliberation. Ensure to keep the questions succinct and to the point with ample options for participants to make selections. Also, keep Yes/No or True/False questions to a minimum for better results.
Gauge the Technical Know-How
Products are either designed for a particular niche or for general use. For specialized use, the technical knowledge of potential users is a given so naturally, the test audience will also be similarly capable. On the other hand, products aimed for general use are bound to be utilized by people across the spectrum with varying levels of technical expertise. This is a vital factor as technical proficiency can significantly affect interactions. Therefore, it is vital to group your sets on the basis of their technical know-how.
Assessing the attributes of your test participants is key to creating the perfect sample set. There are numerous sampling techniques that provide reliable extrapolation. Utilizing these techniques can help to maintain the statistical integrity of your market research. Depending on the scale of your endeavor, you can do the sampling process yourself or outsource them to agencies specializing in the field. Sampling is a truly multi-layered process and navigating its various embankments does require a deft touch. Follow the pointers mentioned above and you’ll have your ideal sample set in no time.
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