Written by: Meghan Boots, Senior Consultant
Some of our clients come to us convinced that their product should be aimed at a specific market, or that it should function a certain way. When we dig in and ask why, their answers often come down to having trusted their gut, or that they asked a few friends and family. While the gut test shouldn’t be ignored, there's no reason to rely on ambiguity when we can access critical data that can inform us how to build better products, create better product-market fit, and market more efficiently.
There are two key areas where product owners usually don’t dig in deeply enough and miss valuable insights: user testing and usability testing. These tests will help you understand a user’s needs and your product’s ease of use. Even though they are two distinct things they are often muddled into one, because they are so closely related. Meaning, user tests will give you insights into user's motivations and allows you learn about their needs, which of course should drive usability. Understanding all this and executing it will pay huge dividends.
This process is where you learn about users’ needs, with the goal of better understanding the demand for your product.
How It’s Done: These tests are usually conducted by a product manager and/ or marketing. While user testing can be accomplished through a variety of means, good results are usually achieved by a combination of two or more tactics, including customer (or lookalike) interviews, analysis of market data, surveys, field studies, and focus groups.
If your product is for a global market, be sure to conduct different tests for different regions. What works in one geo/region might not work as well in others.
If you’re a product manager, a UX designer, an engineer, or a product marketer, then you know that this testing is essential for product releases and even initiatives like website redesigns. For the rest of us, these tests are about gaining valuable insights from actual users.
The goal is to learn how easy or difficult it is for your target customer to use your product or service; you’re observing how people interact with it. If you have a digital product, this usually centers around UX and determines your design refinements. Regardless of whether you have a digital or physical product, this kind of testing is critical. If your target market can’t intuitively use your product, then this limits your chances of success.
How It’s Done: Ask actual customers or lookalikes to perform specific tasks while observing them. This can be done in person but there are some great virtual options out there.
If you use a virtual version, you’ll need to identify up front what the specific tasks and questions are for your test users. During the testing, they will go through your routines and answer your questions as they record themselves on video, performing the tasks you have provided and hearing them think out loud. By capturing this, you’re getting the customer experience (CX) through their eyes. Getting valuable insights through virtual platforms can happen in as little as day. Within an hour or two of uploading your tasks, you can start to see videos trickle in.
These testing platforms will aggregate the overall user sentiment for you, eliminating the need to suffer through many long, tedious videos. The feedback is fascinating because it’s candid. Taking this in is where the rubber meets the road, and what separates great product experiences from mediocre ones.
More Benefits & Tips
- The results of both types of tests can also be a powerful team alignment tool. When product managers take the videos back to engineering and UX teams, they can present them with feedback directly from real-life users’ mouths. That feedback can be enlightening, but also frightening. The most important aspect is your ability to truly listen, really open up and take in feedback. You've worked hard on your product or service, and it is normal to be initially defensive. But listening to opposing views without defensiveness is a skill to build. I’ve experienced (seasoned) co-workers on product teams who didn’t fully accept usability testing results because it might have proved their theories wrong. Egos can hinder a team’s success. Openness to user testing results will make your product and marketing game stronger.
- This process is an investment because you’ll be much more competitive when you have a product that people want/ need and that they can easily use.
- Don't forget that the knowledge gained from both types of tests are not only relevant for new products. Utilize these tests whether you have a new product release, you’re iterating on your current product, or expanding into a new market or region.
Want to learn more, get advice on testing, or help with managing tests? Tap into our insights a little further by having a quick chat with us. We’re happy to have a casual conversation and we always talk under NDA.