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Remote user testing will make you a better designer

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In DLG Digital I have the opportunity to learn about and explore some pretty impressive tools to help me in my role as a digital designer. It’s great that we invest in these tools and I feel it’s really important to make the most of what we have available. Use it or lose it, right?

WhatUsersDo is one such tool, making it possible for anyone in Digital to implement remote user testing. When I heard that we had this available, I jumped at the chance to see how it worked.

What is remote user testing?

Your pool of users is based remotely, making it very quick to set up and ideal if you need your feedback to be returned swiftly. If I had to set up a user test at the DLG offices, it’d take some time and probably involve a variety of other people. With remote user testing I don’t need to contact people, arrange security passes, present my test to them personally or provide them with refreshments.

How does remote user testing work?

1. Decide what you want to test, and who you want to test it

For example, this could be a particular page of your website that’s not performing as well as you’d expect. You’ll also need to pin down a demographic based on age, gender, location and device type.  

2. Create a script

You’ll need to explain to users which URL they should visit, what you’d like them to do on the page, and what information you’d like them to give. Make sure to ask users to enter fake but realistic personal details.

3. Set up the test online

It’s pretty easy, and there are online guides available if you get stuck.

4. Release the test

Literally just a click of a button.

5. Analyse the results

Examine where users have struggled and what features they’ve found particularly useful.

6. Implement changes to your website to improve the user experience

Use other tools and knowledge to back up your findings.

7. Check if your changes have worked

Review your web stats to see if you have improved the experience for your users.

How does remote user testing help me to improve my design work?

We need to look at things from a customer’s viewpoint. If my testers can’t understand what a question on a web form means, then there’s a decent chance that improving it will increase the number of real users who successfully complete the form. Remote user testing doesn’t give me all the answers, but it helps me to question the right things.

Beginner’s tips for successful remote user testing

1. Keep your test script as simple as possible

The number of tasks and the wording of your questions is very important. If a user gets confused they’ll probably either fail to complete the test or get irritated with the test itself. I’ve learned this the hard way.

2. Embrace the anger

Don’t get offended if a user is super-critical of your website. Brutally honest feedback can be really valuable.

3. Don’t influence the results with your own opinions

So, you’ve looked at your analytics and found that a lot of people are leaving your site from a particular page. You’ve reviewed the content and design of that page and have a few ideas of how you could improve it. Don’t let your personal opinions influence what your users think about the page. Let your testers discover the issues independently.

4. Don’t just go along with whatever the test users say

Just because one of my users says that something is great, it doesn’t mean that it actually is. Bear in mind that your users are probably getting paid a fee to carry out the test for you. Some of them will just want to get the test over with as quickly as they can. I’ve found a good rule of thumb is to review the longer test videos first, as they’re more likely to contain valuable feedback.

5. Back up your findings with analytics and use A/B testing to verify

I try to work with our analysts as closely as possible – it means we can use a combination of user feedback and stats to back up our findings. If you have access to other tools, try to use them to gain an idea of the bigger picture. Once you’re confident your proposed changes will work, use A/B testing to compare old with new.

Give it a go

For many roles, remote user testing can add valuable insight to your work. Don’t be too scared to make mistakes, as asking the right questions is a skill that takes time to develop.

I haven’t mastered it yet, but I’m trying.