Early usability test decides the product’s future
Usability isn’t something you just can craft in any one phase of design, but must be developed and refined throughout the entire process. Rather, usability testing should be the last place to start thinking about usability.
Recently, quite a good number of teams have started usability testing on prototypes
1. Early testing involves far less rework
While it seems the most obvious reason for early testing, this is actually one of the reasons which is most overlooked.
A change to an initial paper sketches or wireframes in the design stage is always easier and less effort taking than changing a robustly developed HTML page with significant visual designs already incorporated.
Getting early feedback from your target market can help you avoid those expensive errors, saving hundreds of engineering hours and thousands of dollars.
2. It saves the later design & dev costs
Let’s say your developers spend a few weeks writing code for your site or app. Then when you run a user test, you discover all kinds of problems. And it’s completely avoidable with user testing prototypes in early stage.
The costs of having a design team or developers involved for later revisions/page iterations are heavy. These costs can be saved when you bring them together at a wire-frame level or paper prototyping level earlier in the process. Additional to the cost is the confusion and frustration that adds on due to a rework.
3. Lo-fi prototypes also encourage more honest criticism
Lo-fi prototypes, including paper prototypes are better more honest feedback since it’s immediately clear that it’s just a work in progress. People are willing to give feedback when they know there is scope of modification.
4. Identify features that are most critical to users
Usability tests on live apps capture the user behaviour and not the preferences or the variations acceptable.
This means that while you think certain design features are critical to your site, your users may see things a little differently. Early usability tests point out differences between your intended design function, and the behaviour of your users. If there are differences between intended functionality and user behaviour, it is better to find this out as soon as possible.
5. Identify Missing Features
During early usability testing, missing features and interactions are quickly spotted.
If your design is unclear or confusing, or if your users get lost in your design, no massive overhaul is required.
You can note which features are of the highest value to your target users and you can find exactly what may be missing from the design itself. Doing this early on will prove far less frustrating than finding out after everything has been perfected.
6. Build Better User Acceptance
Early testing helps you better understand the acceptance level of users during initial design processes and also gives designers more confidence on their design features since they’ve already been through a batch of testing and received feedback. With this collected feedback, it becomes easier for designers to set achievable targets.
7. Changes can be Made Quickly and Effectively
Early changes ensure that design changes are quickly done and easy to incorporate. Early design testing allows for feedback on broad navigational issues and overall page layout or structure.
It’s never too early to test!
If you’re not testing on low fidelity prototypes now, start planning to do so during your next project. Each phase of a successful project lifecycle can be positively informed by user testing including the early phases. If immediate implementation of user testing seems insurmountable in your current project, try to build user testing in to inform your next product iteration to get into the habit of user testing early and often.
A much better use of your time and effort in doing away with usability issues in the project would be to mock up a prototype, drop it into CanvasFlip and then run a user test to validate your assumptions and figure out whether or not you’re heading in the right direction.
Early usability test decides the product’s future was originally published in Prototyping: From UX to Front End on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.