Process: User experience testing 🔬

As I said in my previous post on process, it’s important to test your work early and often. This means getting in front of your users and collecting feedback, aka UX testing.

When you’re starting out with user testing it can be quite intimidating, but with a few tips and a bit of preparation it can be very valuable. There’s a few basic things to consider when carrying out tests.

Asking the right questions

Just rolling up to your user and asking questions may provide some value, but it may also give you some bias or low value results. To avoid this it pays to prepare your questions in advance of the interview. When formulating the questions themselves make sure you avoid both leading and dead end questions.

Leading questions

An example of a leading question is “do you find the mood of the scene magical?”. By asking a question in this way you’re influencing your user to think of the scene in a magical context. This may effect their answers, reducing the value of the feedback. A better question to ask would be “can you describe the mood of the scene?”. It’s more open ended, leaving the user to describe the mood without bias.

Dead end questions

Likewise asking dead end questions also provides little value. Dead end questions are questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. An example would be “did you enjoy the experience?”. A better option would be “tell me about the experience?”.

If need be, you can always ask follow up questions to clarify anything you feel isn’t clearly communicated in the users answers.

Sample size

On the surface you’d think you’d need dozens and dozens of users to test on, and in the past many UX practitioners have done just that. As it turns out, that really isn’t needed. In fact according to a study by the Norman Nelson Group you’re actually wasting your time with big sample sizes. You’re actually far better served by performing multiple small test on 3-5 people. Not only is it cheaper and easier to do, but it’s actually more effective.

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Process 📝

The making of a “thing” happens in loads of different ways, but I’ve always found it’s best to have some sort of process to get a good result. It doesn’t have to be onerous, just something repeatable that considers a few things consistently.

To avoid an overly long post I plan to write a series on this subject. Here’s a few tips to get you started:

Start with people – It’s always tempting to just start building stuff, but you should always start with your target audience. That is the audience you intend to use you’re app. It’s easy to think it’s “everyone”, but is that really true? What experience do they have with VR/AR? Also consider this is a physical medium, so you may be making greater physical demands of your audience than with other digital experiences.  Jumping may require users to physically jump, their height may be a factor, and so on. Simply writing a few sentences describing who your user is and what you expect them to do can be very powerful. For example:

The end users for ProjectX are likely to be people who are new to VR, but who have already experienced various games in their life. They are probably going to be 25-35 and own a smartphone. They'll be expected to stand, reach, jump and turn with relative ease.

Develop personas – I’ve always been a fan of personas. They are simple to put together, and make it easy to conceptualise your audience. Something to be aware of though is that personas by their nature are a generalisation of an audience. They will never cover all of the details, so you should expect to continue to refine them over time. With this in mind start with something simple you can build upon. Something like this:

Image:
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Name: Anna
Age: 36
Role: Scientist/Marketer
VR Experience: Little to none
Quote (that sums up their attitude): VR looks interesting and I’d like to give it a go.
About this person: Anna is a highly educated working mother of two. She has a busy lifestyle but is always interested in new and interesting things. She prefers to try things before jumping in head first and enjoys things she can share with her family.

Statement of purpose
A good statement helps us understand what we are building by defining a simple project scope. It should be concise and ideally no more than one or two sentences long. It’s something you should keep visible to constantly remind you of what it is your building, and limit the temptation to go to far beyond that.

Here’s an example purpose statement:

ProjectX is a mobile VR app which give new VR users a quick taste of a VR via their existing smart phone. The entire experience should take no more than a few minutes.

Make disposable concepts and iterate – In the beginning everything you do should be simple, quick, and disposable. Use materials, tools, and techniques that enable this. Pen and paper are a surprising useful and versatile tool set. Expect to be wrong, it helps you keep an open mind on other options, not becoming to attached to any one thing. Iterate, iterate, then iterate some more. Eventually you’ll find something you’re happy to move on with. Steadily increase the complexity and sophistication of your work as the idea solidifies.

Share your work early and often – You know who your audience is, show them what you’re making. Their feedback will be invaluable. You’ll also be able to get in front of complexity before things become difficult to change. While you’re with your audience take the opportunity to grow your understanding of them and update your personas to match. Note: Be careful to listen for what your user wants, less so how they want it.

Conclusion – Using these simple steps and methods is a great way to start any project, but don’t be afraid to change things up until you find a process that works best for you. Ultimately you need to find what makes your product better for your users, and discard the rest.