Lesson Seven: User Testing

Having the ability to see how your target audience actually interacts with your product is one of the most valuable sources of information available to you, so once your prototype has been built it’s time to get it into the hands of users! 

Why Should I User Test?

  • User Testing allows you to see what is and isn’t working for users
    Putting your product into the hands of users allows you to see what is and isn’t working for them.  Are there areas where navigation is confusing? Are they able to complete specific tasks - and how long does it take for them to do so? Seeing these interactions in real time will provide you with an abundance of information on the changes you should make to ensure your app is user friendly. 
  • It helps you reduce costs
    You might be hesitant to user test based on the cost and time it takes to do so - but user testing may actually help you to significantly reduce costs in the long run.

    As an example, when building your product you may have plans to spend a significant amount of time creating a feature that you believe will be extremely useful to users - but, in the process of user testing, you find that nobody is actually interested in it - and in fact are interested in a feature you hadn’t even considered. The time and money saved in instances like this can be huge. 
  • It arms you with a fresh perspective
    Seeing your app through the eyes of your users provides you with an unbiased perspective that you can’t get from anyone working on your project. This fresh perspective will provide you with a wealth of information - like what’s truly important and meaningful to users and which areas might be confusing or slow users down. 

How Do I Conduct User Testing?

User testing isn’t just about handing your prototype over to a user and seeing what happens - rather, it’s a meticulous process that involves a few steps to help ensure your results are as useful and accurate as possible. Those steps include:

  • Determining your objectives
  • Recruiting Users
  • Conducting testing sessions
  • Reviewing results and compiling insights

Determining Your Objectives

When conducting user tests you’ll want to define a very clear goal that outlines exactly what you’d like to learn during your sessions. Broad objectives, such as “I want to receive feedback on my app” will lead to responses that are far too diverse to provide you with meaningful insights. Instead, you’ll want to create objectives that will  provide you with deep insight into how users perceive your app.

We recently conducted user testing on an app we are building for a client - our objectives included testing our own hypothesis regarding how users would feel about our app. Here is our list of assumptions regarding our app:

When planning out your user testing sessions, we recommend creating a similar list, with the goal of creating testing questions that address these concerns. You’ll see our list of questions a bit further down in this lesson. 

Recruiting Users

When recruiting participants for your user testing sessions, it’s crucial that you seek out individuals who represent your app’s target users - so now is a great time to review the user personas you’ve created. 

If possible, you’ll want to avoid using colleagues as testers as the potential for bias is quite high. Having individuals who feel that they must say positive things, or who already know too much about the product can significantly skew your results.  

To help ensure that your participants are able to provide you with relevant insights into your product  it will be important to determine criteria for recruiting individuals. In some cases, your criteria may be very general, such as age, location, and experience with a certain type of widely used product, such as smartphones. In other cases you might need to recruit individuals who can provide specific insights into the app you are testing -  such as someone who has experience reading MRI’s.

Once you’ve determined your criteria, your next step should be creating a script that will be used for screening participants. This script should be relatively easy to create and include questions that will allow you to determine whether a potential participant meets your criteria.

There are a few ways that you can recruit your participants. The simplest, but most expensive route, is to use a recruitment agency that will find participants based on your screening criteria. If you’d rather not spend money on recruiting users, you can seek some out on your own.

We’ve found that utilizing our social networks is one of the best ways for recruiting users. Though you’ll want to steer clear of using individuals who are too close to you, to avoid biased opinions, having everyone on your team put out feelers for interested individuals is usually very fruitful. Posting a call for participants on social media channels is also very useful.

Other methods that may help you recruit participants include posting ads on craigslist, reaching out to meetup groups or, if your product can be tested virtually via zoom, checking out relevant facebook groups.

To help ensure you’ll be able to recruit enough participants, it’s always helpful to offer some sort of incentive to those who complete testing. We usually like to use Amazon gift cards to thank people for taking time out of their day to help us out. 

Conducting Your Testing Sessions

Before actually beginning user testing, you’ll want to create a script that you’ll use throughout the user testing process, as well as the list of questions you’ve generating based on your hypotheses and assumptions about your product. Having a script is important as it ensures that your questions and tasks remain consistent throughout all of your test subjects.

Here's a script we used for a recent user testing session

Here's a script we used for user testing on a recent projec

Hi ________, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me today. Although we’re still in the exploratory phase of testing - your input is going to help us continue to design and develop the best experience for this app.

Before we begin, let's make sure we have everything ready and set up.

(Review any instructions you might have for ensuring the session goes well, such as how the user should sit so you can see their screen+actions etc

[Company intro]

For more than 25 years, HMI has been researching the heart-brain connection and learning how the heart influences our own perceptions, emotions, intuition and health.

HM’s research demonstrated that different patterns of heart activity have different effects on thoughts and behaviors. Studies conducted with over 11,500 people have shown improvements in mental & emotional well-being using HM training and technology.

[App Intro]

This App is based on years of scientific research and is designed to help you release stress and increase health and wellbeing. The App will help you learn key HM concepts and techniques that will allow you to put these into practice with real-time feedback.

Do you have any questions before we get started?

Ok great, seems like we are all set up.


For note-taking purposes, is it ok if we record this conversation? All of your answers will be kept strictly confidential and never associated with your name.

Perfect. We will be spending about 45 minutes together


Last thing- As you engage with the prototype, please share your thought process by speaking out loud as thoughts or considerations occur. Be as honest as you can. If you don't like something, please say it. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings. This is currently in a fairly early trial stage of product development so your real opinion is very important.

The final paragraph in this script is very important - you’ll want to make sure that your user is aware that they should express their thoughts and feelings about their experience with your product throughout the session - and that negative impressions and criticisms are more than welcome. 

Once you’re ready to begin you’ll want to make sure to set up a video camera in your testing room that will allow you to capture both what the user is doing in the app, as well as any questions/comments they might have. Not only will the recording help ensure you don’t miss a thing, it will also help you establish good rapport with the user, since you won’t have to take notes. 

In order to gain insight into the users thoughts, behaviors, goals and motivations when using your app, It’s often helpful to ask your participants to think out loud during testing. You can simply ask them to narrate their actions and thoughts as they perform tasks. 

During the testing session you’ll want to ask the user to complete specific tasks, observe their interaction with your app, and ask relevant questions that will allow you to gain a better understanding of their behaviors, frustrations and goals. Some questions might include:

  • What do you think this button is going to do?
  • What do you think your next step should be?
  • I noticed you just chose to do (action). Why did you choose that?
  • What did you expect to see here?
  • Why didn’t you use (X feature)?
  • Is there anything on this page that confuses you?
  • Do you think there is an easier way to accomplish [process] than what you just did?
  • Do you think (X) is useful?
  • Is there anything you think would be more useful here?
Once the user has completed all of the tasks, it’s important to have them complete a post-testing survey that covers all of the concerns and questions you have about your app.This survey can help to determine whether or not a user truly understands how and why to use your app.

Here is an example of a survey we included during a recent testing session. 
  • In the training, you learned about the sine wave, what does it represent?
  • What did the erratic wave represent?
  • What impacts your coherence score?
  • Did you feel like you were in control of your coherence score? 
  • Were you able to track when your coherence was increasing and/or decreasing?
  • Were you able to understand all the information presented to you in the stats view?
  • Was there any other info you would have preferred to see in here?
  • After finishing your session, do you feel like you were presented with all the information you expected to see?
      * if yes  From the information presented, what did you find most valuable to you?
  •  if no  what information post session would you have expected to see? 
  • Did you understand all of the information you were presented with after your session
  • Do you feel like you learned a new concept today?
  • How likely do you see yourself applying what you learned today to the rest of your day? 
  • Name 2 or more things you liked about the experience
  • Name 2 or more things you disliked about the experience
  • From 0-10, how likely would you be to encourage a friend to try this app?
  • From 0-10, how likely would you be to use this app?
  • Is there any additional feedback you would like to add? Anything you would like to see changed? if you had to buy this now would you?

Reviewing results and compiling insights

Once you’ve completed all of your user testing sessions it will be important to take a deep dive into all of the information you’ve collected and compile all of the insights you’ve gained along the way.

It’s likely that you’ll have gathered a lot of information, so it can be helpful to break it down into categories - for example, here are some of the insights we gathered regarding a few of the areas we explored during our recent testing session.

From all of these insights, you can then create a generalized list of high level findings:

Finally, you’ll want to compile a list of recommendations based on all of the insights you’ve gathered. These recommendations should include all of the changes you’d like to make to the current app to make it more useful to users. These changes can include features you’d like to add or get rid of, ways you can make the application more clear and easy to use, and more.

Now that you’ve gained a ton of insight into your users experience with your prototype, including what will make it more user friendly, you’re ready to get to work on developing a fully functional version of your app!

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