How to do a user test in 4 steps

To make sure your site or app connects with the (changing) expectations of your customers, you have to stay in touch with them. What works well? How could you do better? Are your customers able to find their way? Or is something missing? User testing is one of the best ways to answer questions like these. A user test is a one-on-one interview with someone from your target audience. You have them go use your site or app based on some questions and scenarios to discover how they experience it.

In this blog we give you an outline of how to approach a user test. We walk you through the most important steps. And tell what you have to take into account.


Step 1 – the kick-off

Every user test starts with a kick-off. That’s a meeting in which you (the researcher) come together with the most important stakeholders to set the scope of the research study. What’s the challenge? What questions do we have? Which assumptions are hidden in the current design?

Besides determining what you want to learn, you should go through earlier research: What do you already know? Often it’s more than you think. Furthermore, it’s important to take a look at the test material (the prototype, site, or app) during the kick-off; make sure you understand what you’re going to test. Last but not least: you have to determine which target audience you want to invite, so that you can start the recruiting process in time – on average, this takes one to two weeks.

After the kick-off you write your test script (you can download a free template here). Your test script contains all the questions, scenarios, and tasks you’ll present to your audience during the interview.


Step 2 – recruitment

The results of your research highly depend on selecting the right participants. So make sure you decide who you want to invite in time. Are you looking for a generic audience, like for instance grocery shoppers between the ages of 20 and 30? Or is it very specific and are you looking for lawyers or …? The more complex your audience, the earlier you have to start recruiting. Don’t have a participant panel yourself? We’d love to help you out. Our panel consists of more than 10,000 people, so chances are we can find exactly who you are looking for. If we can’t find your audience in our panel, we don’t mind going out of our way and search through specific communities, social media, or partners.


Step 3 – enter the lab

 Once the scope of the research is set and the participants are recruited, it’s time to jump into the UX lab and get to know your target audience. You see how people use and experience your site or app. You hear what bothers them and what goes well. The test script offers the guidance you need during the interview. 

The maximum duration of an interview is one hour – if you take longer, concentration will fade away. Besides that, 20+ years of experience tells us that 5 to 6 interviews are sufficient to bring the most important insights to the surface. If you decide to do more interviews, you probably won’t learn anything new.

A typical UX test is done by two researchers. One does the interview. The other watches along from the observation room – together with the most important stakeholders – to capture everything participants say and do. Remember to do a debrief at the end of a research day. In the debrief you discuss with the entire team what you have seen and learned. This is a great starting point for the research report you are going to write.


Step 4 – report and next steps

The final step of your user test is writing the research report. Try to stay away from long and dense reports: very often they end up somewhere at the bottom of a drawer. Keep your insights, conclusions, and recommendations concrete. And if possible, support them with sketches. This way, it’s easier for designers and developers to translate your findings into a better digital product. 

Once the report is finished, make sure you conclude the project with a brief session with important stakeholders. Discuss what you’ve learned and decide on the next steps together.

Need help with user testing? Are you looking for participants? Or do you need a UX lab to conduct your interviews? We would be happy to help you out.