Lean User Testing

As the User Advocate Lead at Philanthropy University, I have been playing different roles and my scope of responsibilities has equally evolved from quarter to quarter during the past twelve months. Partly, this is due to the fact that as an organization we are constantly ideating of our product. This is a common feature at a startup company. As Philanthropy University embarked on the journey of refocusing our market to emerging economies, so did the features of our product took a 360 degrees turn. As an EdTech company with a bold vision of impacting 100 million lives by 2020, Philanthropy University will help measurably improve 5,000 local organizations in the Global South, enabling them to more effectively improve the lives of the people they serve.  

As we are in the process of redesigning our courses and building a new platform with new features and content, we are keen to put to test in front of the users, the new designs (Minimum Viable Product (MVP) and platform navigations. This is what the engineers and product managers refer to as usability testing plan (UTP).  These testing can be done in several ways as costing as a minimum a price of a coffee to spending thousands of dollars. I was part of the former known as Lean “Guerilla” User Testing. Lean Guerilla testing is utilized to gather feedback and insights in a nimble and rapid manner. Some of the key features of  Lean User Testing:

  • Engages a broader spectrum of participants.
  • Occurs in a less formal environment.
    Eg: Conducting a test in a public space, versus a controlled testing environment.
  • Provide immediate feedback on any stage of design, with less overhead than a formal test session.  

Before we begin this process, reflect on the following.

  • What do you want to validate? Is it a user flow, content, or visual design? What are your assumptions? What are the outstanding questions or concerns? Create a brief that captures the areas of inquiry being tested.
  • Who do you want to test with? While there is flexibility with whom to engage with during lean testing, think about the larger user behavior involved.
  • Create a test script. Include talking points and scenarios for your participant to walk through. Assign team roles and responsibilities, eg: who is conducting the interview and who will be taking notes?
  • Practice! Test the script and clickable wireframes internally. Do the flows make sense? How is the timing? Are the test directions clearly articulated? I
  • Where do you want to conduct the test? Target a location and consider environmental factors such as areas of traffic or time of day.

Here are some special points to keep in mind when you are task to carry out such a test.

  • When conducting the test, you don’t want to give any clues about how the site is used. You don’t want to lead your users. You want to see how they figure out things for themselves. The best way to avoid leading your users is to remain silent during testing sessions.
  • Capturing insights: the most obvious way of capturing your findings is to simply list the top 3 usability problems identified in the tests.