5 Tips For Successfully Integrating Lean Usability

Make those seconds count!
Seconds. You have just a handful of seconds to make a positive impression on your audience. Research by Dr. Dave Chaffey of SmartInsights.com indicates users will make up their minds about a digital product or service in 2 seconds. How will you know you’re making the right impression in those precious 2 seconds? How will you know how to fix the wrong impression?

Usability testing is still a workhorse even in these times of Lean UX and bootstrapped startups, providing a voice of the customer in the product’s development and mitigating the risk of negative user experience.

Here are 5 tips for successfully integrating usability testing into your product development cycle.

1. Start with an expert review
Start your usability testing engagements, large or small, with an expert review. A competent user experience designer will be able to spot basic usability issues, gaps and offer solutions. No prototype is perfect, but don’t let simple usability issues hamper and slow down valuable testing time. Fix basic issues ahead of time, so you can concentrate on priority use cases, pain points in a flow and extracting high quality qualitative feedback from your test participants.

 2. Test early, test often
Usability testing should take place throughout the product development lifecycle, beginning in the earliest stages. Early testing can be lean and mean, done in-house with staff, family, or friends, using mock-ups, paper prototypes, or interactive wireframes. As the product develops, more formal testing can occur in the lab, with a targeted audience, a task-based approach and a more polished prototype.

3. Make your development and product teams observe
Usability testing is a powerful touch point with your target audience. For many stakeholders it’s the first time they have watched an actual customer engage with their product, which can be very impactful. Strongly encourage key stakeholders to come participate in the observation room, where the team has an entire day to focus on their customer’s needs. The conversations that occur in the observation room are invaluable to the product team. Stakeholders will leave the sessions with a clear and focused list of priorities, boatloads of new ideas and a renewed empathy for the customer.

4. Skip the formal report
In most cases, a formal report is an unnecessary expense. Unless you have a lot of deeply involved stakeholders, or need buy-in from executives, you can proceed straight to summarizing the findings and getting on with the fixes. End the day of testing by holding a debrief, led by the facilitators and observers. Review the top issues, posit theories about why the issue occurred and explore design solutions. Lastly, take away the findings, which include all of the quantitative and qualitative data collected, as well as potential solutions for issues and bring it together into an informal summary of findings to circulate to the team.

5. Have a bias toward action
The Stanford DSchool philosophy, ‘having a bias toward action’ means to promote action-based behavior over discussion-based work. In usability testing you can do this by taking the learnings back to the design immediately. Sketch solutions, get it in the concept and put it back in front of users for testing. You’re likely right and it’s likely to succeed.

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