You might have heard about how usability testing is all the rage these days. But, you’re a 2-person startup working out of a garage (or, more likely: a coffee shop in the Mission). Resources are tight, time is of the essence, and you wouldn’t even know where to find a UX Researcher if you wanted.


Lucky for you, there are quick, simple ways you can get up-and-running with user testing.

Here is a breakdown on why you should user test, when you should user test, and how you can run one quickly, cheaply, and effectively.

Why user test?

As product makers, it’s easy to get tied to what you’re building. When you look at your website (or app) day in and day out, you quickly lose perspective because of your deep familiarity with the product. It’s hard to see your product as a first-time user would. Features that seem blatant and obvious to you might be completely hidden to visitors to your website. Essentially, you lose beginner’s mind.

A usability test is one of the best tools you have at your disposal to see how new users react to your product. By running a user test, you can reduce development/design time and costs, increase conversion, and increase user satisfaction. Here are just some of the benefits of usability testing:

  • Hear how users viscerally respond to your product while they’re using it
  • Identify major usability flaws
  • Determine the effectiveness of your messaging/copy
  • Improve conversion flows
  • Observe bugs/quirks of your website in different browsers that you might not have tested (**cough* Internet Explorer *cough**)

When should you user test?

The short answer: you always have the option to user test, at every stage of your product development cycle — when you’re first validating your product idea, benchmarking competitors’ products, and comparing the performance of existing products. Here’s a more detailed post about all the different ways you can user test.

But that’s not really what you’re looking for. While you can conduct user testing in nearly every scenario, there are some situations where user testing can be especially beneficial for a bootstrapped product team. In Designlab’s case, we’ve used testing most effectively pre-launch. Now, we factor in 2-3 days of testing and iteration time for every major release at the end of each product cycle.

Here are some specific use cases:

  • Get a sense of how people are interacting with a specific part of your product. For example, maybe you’re testing the signup flow on your site, or a checkout form. Identify missed usability issues and see how effective your product flows are.
  • See how individuals react to your product by hearing their out-loud reactions. For example, maybe you’re about to launch a new landing page, and you’re not sure about the copy you’ve used.You can get insightful feedback on marketing and messaging by listening carefully to these reactions.

Some scenarios where online user testing might not be great:

  • Showing off wireframes that are in progress
  • Testing a product idea
  • Comparing different versions of the same feature

How do you run a user test quickly + effectively?

There are numerous guides out there on how to run an effective user test. Here’s our favorite.

We recommend Some general principles to follow:

  • Choose the right candidates—since you can select testers by demographics, pick people who resemble your target users.
  • Give your testers short, simple prompts with clear tasks. No ambiguity!
  • Ask the right follow-up questions to gain insight on the testers’ overall experience.
  • Examine your feedback, make the appropriate product changes (especially if you’ve heard the same type of feedback multiple times), and run again!

Online user testing is a great solution for a lean product team. You can set up a user test in the morning and head out to lunch. By the end of your break, you can sit down and watch videos of real people from around the world clicking through and interacting with your product. Nothing is as embarrassing and eye-opening as seeing multiple users confused by your design and copy.

With a set of insights honed from watching real people use your product, you’ll be well on your way to building the next Instagram. Good luck!

author avatar

Harish Venkatesan

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