User Testing as a Valuable Marketing Tool

As a whole, most businesses are focusing our resources in marketing on digital media, it doesn’t matter if you are a small mom & pop shop, or a big enterprise. Getting our message in front of people when they are on the move, telling stories of how folks use our products and interacting with different audiences throughout the customer journey is part of every marketing team’s daily activities.

So where does this leave UX? And why should we look at it as a different, separate activity?

The mindset that we need to create successful user experiences has already permeated marketing’s best practices and we are starting to share more and more methodologies and tools between both camps – UX and marketing.

UX is based on people, however we want to name them in our discourse. Be it users, clients, customers, customer segments, etc. our focus remains on people and how they interact with our digital presence.

Maybe it’s time we start developing a tool belt with methodologies from both camps to further improve our understanding of behavior, motivation and the expectation of people and how to better cater products that are useful to them.

On user testing: the first baby step

At a personal level, in the beginning of my career I felt that user research was such a specialised and sacred role, that you shouldn’t do it if a client wasn’t specifically asking for the service or having a huge budget. Oh boy, I couldn’t have been more wrong: It’s so easy to get out of your shell, go outside and talk to the real people that are using your client’s products, to start observing, measuring and testing to break assumptions or identify processes and flows to improve.  Perhaps, that should be our secondary objective in this process: to break preconceptions that different project stakeholders bring to the table.

In this stream, Jackie Ho, a full-stack UI/UX Designer from NYC, demonstrates how she incorporates planning, user research and testing into her design process. All this, just one “Skype call” away.  The video is over 2 hours long, so here are some highlights:

Interview Script & Persona Validation

You can also check out her script in PDF format.  Having this document before the interview is incredibly helpful, since you don’t have to improvise and can go back to your notes at any time.

About Persona Validation: this is one of the things I found more interesting about the video, these questions help you find out if the person you’re interviewing will actually be interested in using your app; and it helps you get a little bit more background info on him.


Specific questions per screen/page

Basically, the meat and bones of the interview: the functionality and details you want to research in the interview.  Author Steve Krug, suggest you should structure this part of the interview into tasks, instead of questions, so you ask the user to complete a specific task inside the app and take notes on his reaction and possible problems he finds using the interface.


Note taking

Some general advise on note taking.

After this, you can continue watching the whole interview; even tough it’s a bit long, i highly recommend it, it’s one of the best ways to learn how it works and it might motivate you to actually try it out yourself.


User Testing Tips


After watching Jackie effortlessly interview a member of her very niche target audience to discover a series of pitfalls on her app, you can be certain that this activity is definitely worthwhile.

“Even though terms like ‘user-centered design’ and ‘user experience’ are now in the vocabulary of most people working on Web sites, relatively few designers, developers, stakeholders, managers, and check-signers― who all have a hand in the design process― have actually spent any time watching how people use Web sites.  As a result, we end up designing for our abstract idea of users, based for the most part on ourselves.”

The long road ahead

Market segmentation and research is one of the foundations of marketing.  Instead of being discouraged from the high investment barrier of incorporating professional quantitative market research into our marketing and digital departments, we should rely on do it ourselves, guerrilla user testing, to get a first hand, qualitative look into how people actually use our products and interact with our brands.  This year, let’s learn a lot by testing a little.


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