The biggest fail when launching a digital product is not testing with external users beforehand.
Be it a brand new product or a new feature in an existing product, teams should always be sharing work with users. It doesn’t matter if those users aren’t in your target market. Or if you’re already confident in your product. Testing with an outside, neutral opinion before releasing it to the public can help you make mistakes privately (rather than publicly). Testing might also help you catch a problem in design, saving time and money before investing in build.
Although user testing might seem like a mammoth task, it doesn’t have to be precious to be useful. At Planes, we understand that time and resource limitations can make a comprehensive user testing plan a no-go. But that doesn’t nix the ritual. Having a casual and open attitude towards sharing unreleased, unbranded features creates an environment for feedback and refinement. We call it MVP user testing, and here’s how you do it.
The most important thing with MVP testing is to keep it simple. The main thing you want to find out is whether your customers can use your product. Is it intuitive? If the answer to this question is no, you’re unlikely to get users returning. You’ll also potentially be wasting a ton of money on features or functionality that might as well be invisible.
We’ve been working on an app where the proposition is based on providing free, unbiased and expert content on a range of retail items. With so many items featured in the app, we needed to find the best way to make that information easy to find without compromising the UX.
Our initial design solution? Clickable pills with more information in pop-up windows. However, when testing the beta, we soon learned that the clickability wasn’t super intuitive. So we made a tiny UI tweak (we literally added an arrow) to improve the UX and mitigate development work further down the line.
Besides the customer benefit, keeping the focus on usability means your whole team should be able to articulate what it is you want users to do. Because at the end of the day, you don’t want to build something that people won’t use.
We love scrappy user testing at Planes. It’s about taking every opportunity to talk to the people around you. That could be anything from making your friends and family have a whirl on a beta app whilst awaiting their Sunday roast to forcing your flatmate to download it on Android (guilty).
But scrappy doesn’t mean directionless. To get the most out of MVP testing, you need to identify the key questions you want answered. For example, which feature do most people gravitate towards? You want to keep your interview conversational but uniform, so ask that same question every time.
Here’s an example: we wanted to understand users’ navigation preferences on our retail mobile app. The question we wanted to answer: did people prefer search or filters? We found that whilst people are used to searching for information on the daily (sup Google), our testers really struggled with what to type in an empty field. For users with specific needs, concerns or constraints, filters do a lot of the heavy lifting. Once we confirmed that filters were the preferred navigation, we made them work harder, adding the ability to save your information.
TOP TIP: Blocking out a few slots a week in Calendly for users to book time for live interviews or demos really helps keep things consistent.
With this one-to-one approach, you’ll get a directional steer and the chance to ask follow-up questions. You may even find yourself with some choice quotes to share with your client; just be sure to keep track of feedback. It might not be water-tight data, but it’s an opportunity to discuss decisions that need to be made as a result or whether further user testing is needed.
One of the key learnings we’ve had at Planes from doing MVP testing is that people want to help. When you’re building a list of potential users for testing, you don’t need to start from scratch. Instead, use your social channels and colleagues to help grow your data. Even if you’ve already identified your target demographic, having more data can be better than hunting down two people who meet your criteria. After all, MVP testing is about challenging your hypothesis of what something is and why it will be successful.
Try chasing down internal and client-side colleagues and have them look at and respond to your designs, app, website, or feature. Whether it’s a straightforward A/B test on Instagram, a demo app for the client, or a multiple-choice email survey, there’s huge comfort in knowing that 20 people have had a similar reaction. More still, this data will help you identify areas that require a rethink.
And you don’t have to stop at your own communities; this is a great opportunity to get your client involved. Whilst developing an app for a world-renowned influencer, we used her channels to reach 70,000 followers – and got 6000 survey responses. Getting that good, good data helped us to identify must-have features such as expert reviews and how-to explainer content. It also gave the client more confidence, making buy-in a breeze.
When time or other resources are tight, the most important thing is to put your product in front of neutral users (outside of business goals). Remember, all feedback is good feedback, so don’t be precious. The more honest the feedback, the better.
Don’t forget that MVP testing isn’t restricted to just the start of a project. Our product process is based on launching fast and often, so we use this methodology throughout the project. We’re just looking at different things at different phases. Because in product, nothing is ever final. Everything is always changing.