User testing is a necessary part of the design process, especially for UX designers. Testing should be done early and often in the design process to ensure the product is meeting usability standards.

What is User Testing?

User testing is the act of asking users to test products to determine their usability. The user provides feedback to the designers who can then make improvements as needed. Users give both positive feedback and constructive criticism to ensure the quality of the final product is top notch. Many companies perform these tests, but it is critical that UX designers follow these practices to ensure a quality user experience for their target audience. 

The main goal of user testing is to make sure the design meets the needs of the user. If a user struggles to finish their goal when using the product, some aspects of the design need to be rethought. User testing also helps designers get a feel for their target audience. By listening to feedback, the designer can better understand the consumers they are creating the product for. This leads to more innovative designs. 

person pointing to a poster speaking to a group of people

Testing should be done throughout the design process as often as possible. The more testing that occurs, the more likely the final product will be perfect for the consumer.While it is not realistic for in-person testing to occur constantly, there are a couple of times throughout the design process when testing should occur. The first of these is before designing a new product. This kind of testing lets companies know if a product is even needed and if there is a problem worth solving. Testing should once again occur before the development of the product after the design has been completed. This saves time and money in the development phase and decreases the risk of mistakes being made. Finally testing should be done once the product is launched to ensure it highlights the best work of the company.

Focus Groups for User Testing

A focus group is one of many forms of user testing. Multiple users come together with a moderator and discuss their thoughts on a specific product. Part of the focus group involves the researchers watching the participants interact with the product. Known as contextual inquiries, this process gives researches a deeper understanding of the way users will interact with their product in a natural state. Focus groups can be done at multiple stages in the design process. A focus group that is conducted before the design begins would help designers understand the problem they are trying to solve and the audience they are targeting. When focus groups are being used in the development phase, the company can learn about the usability of their product and any improvements that need to be made. Focus groups studied after the launch of a product can help the company gain insight into how well the product is doing in the marketplace. 

graphs printed on paper

Companies like using focus groups because they allow for participants to talk with each other and bounce ideas around that might not have taken place in a one on one setting. This might provide the company with more information about refinements needed and elements that were enjoyed. This is an easy way for researchers to collect a lot of information quickly. The information will not be as in depth as it might be for a one on one interview, but that is not the goal of a focus group. Designers are looking for a wide range of ideas, and allowing people to build off of others ideas provides extra information on human behaviors and feelings. The building off of ideas also helps describe how users are interacting with a design or website. 

There are a range of different kinds of focus groups, all of which have importance for different projects. Focus groups can be moderated or unmoderated, they can be remote or in person, and they can be explorative or comparative. An unmoderated focus group puts more emphasis on allowing participants to build off of each others ideas and explore whatever topics they wish. A moderated version might be useful to keep participants on a specific track. Remote focus groups allow more people to participate, but participants might not be as focused as they would be in person, and they may be less likely to jump in with their thoughts. Finally, explorative focus groups allow participants to get to know and try a product, while comparative focus groups have participants look at two competing products.

people working together

Test to Create the Best

Focus group testing is just one of the many ways companies can gain information from real consumers about their products. Focus groups are an effective way to collect lots of information in a short amount of time. Whether a company chooses to do a focus group or not, some type of user testing should be conducted when creating a new product. Testing allows space for more innovation to occur, and making changes based on customer feedback can greatly improve brand loyalty.