What’s in a User?

How to Approach User Testing During a Digital Product Design Sprint

In early 2017, I got involved with our Digital Clarity design sprint product. Though Helpful Human had been iterating on this process for years, this was my first foray. Based on Google Ventures design sprint concepts, this highly engaging process is an excellent way to start any new digital product development.

If you’re not already familiar with the design sprint concept, you can read up on Interviews and a checklist for the Interview day from Google Ventures, as they have gone through the trouble of documenting their best practices. The checklist will be a lifesaver to help prevent you from going crazy on Thursday — and especially Friday.

I walked into my first engagement with a singular job; organize and conduct the end-of-week user tests. I was the Interviewer.

This role is freighted with enormous responsibility. So, in a sense, I was thrown into the deep-end with the weight of responsibility potentially dragging me down, and I had to swim.

And, swim I did.

Quickly, I broke out our needs into the following 4-point list — the same list I implore you to use if you ever engage in a design sprint.

  1. Identify the ‘who?’
  2. Decide how to recruit and build an ad.
  3. Determine what questions you’ll ask.
  4. Get everyone across the finish line.

Monday: Identify the ‘Who?’

Most sprints will conclude on the Friday following an intense week of introspection and strategy. You have 5–6 hours in which to fit all of your interviewees, and the max number of them you’ll need is five. But, who do you bring in?

Let’s start with Monday.

Based on the digital product or features in mind, maybe even the business itself, you can quickly create some personas to work from. This part of the process is almost entirely out of the hands of the Interviewer, but he can affect the final outcome by being present to steer the team toward a persona. The best way to steer is to keep the team focused on building their ideal customer or user.

Monday: Decide How to Recruit and Build an Ad

Once the team has identified the persona, you can’t relax and hope this person will just waltz through the door. You’ve got to recruit them, and by far the easiest place to do recruiting for user tests is on Craigslist. There are people constantly scouring CL for ads like “Participate in a user test in exchange for a gift card” or something of the sort.

Our most popular ad was titled, “$100 for your participation in a 30-minute research opportunity”. This ad generated somewhere close to 30 applicants— much higher than the 5 needed.

However, sometimes Craigslist isn’t going to cut it. For high-income personas, or those who have a corporate bent, you’ll need to reach out through LinkedIn or an email list. One client of ours had a ready list of clients to test with, and we determined they fit our research needs because we were looking to test a product they had used before, and would certainly use again.

Tuesday: Determine What Questions You’ll Ask

Once you’ve got the pool of applicants, you’ll want to have a survey ready to start weeding out anyone who doesn’t embody your ideal persona. It’s a little time consuming, but a well-crafted survey will do wonders for finding some gems. Use a form software, like Google Forms or Typeform. Both of these will store responses and make them easy to review later with the team.

Your survey should ask pertinent demographic questions and get to the heart of the issue as quickly as possible. Can they attend the testing? What’s their age? Gender? Questions like these will help define who you will invite, and those who you may reach out to next time you need to run any tests.

It’s important to note that you’ll always be tempted to invite in some user who doesn’t fit your persona if you don’t do this screening process correctly. Flee the devil and build a good screening process! You can even rinse-reuse the same screening survey for all of your sprints, just add/remove pertinent/unnecessary questions.

Wednesday — Friday: Get Everyone Across the Finish Line

By far the hardest time you’ll have is getting people to actually show up on Friday. The day comes, and odds are that you’ll have at least one person ghost you. You should book at least 6 people and have 2 people booked for the same, earliest spot. If both of those interviewees show up, no problem. Make sure there is someone ready to pop in with the second person to do an impromptu interview in a designated secondary space.

Sound painful?

Yeah, it’s painful, so do your best to confirm and double confirm with people that they can be at the interview location on the day of user testing. Offer Uber credits, validated parking, lunch gift cards— whatever it takes to get them there. This is in addition to the promised incentive you have already used to lure them into joining your user testing group. You’ve got to make it a sweet deal to attract good interviewees who won’t be preoccupied or focused on the difficulty of finding you, paying for parking, driving in traffic, etc.

That’s it! Now all you have to do is conduct each interview, take thorough notes for documentation (we also recommend recording each session), compile the main points to give to your team members for review, recap with your team, and go home.

Does user testing sound like someone that could benefit your company? Engaging Helpful Human for a Digital Clarity design sprint may be a great way for you to refine or build new digital products in a way that cuts down cost and mistakes, and increases your chances of getting it right the first time around. Email us at hello@helpfulhuman.com and we’ll show you the ropes.