Hello! If you are reading this, you’re probably interested in doing rapid prototyping and remote usability testing for your a new digital product or feature. Here’s how we do it at Meedan.
Here is the idea:
- Design — Create 5–10 clickable slides of your concept.
- Recruit — Find some potential users.
- Show — Speak to your participants.
- Repeat — update your slides with lessons learned.
Below are examples of lightweight documents that we use during this type of prototype based testing. They’ve been lightly modified to make them easier to use for your own purposes. Feel free to copy these docs! They’re all licensed CC-BY Meedan.
1. A recruiting spreadsheet
How to make your own: In Drive go to `File > make a copy`
Try to talk to people who might actually use your software, not just random people.
Try to get diverse recruits — be wary of echo chamber or biased results. Have columns for gender and location.
Expect you’ll only be able to get on the phone with about 50% of your contacts at most. Start by reaching out through your own networks, but if you have trouble finding people, consider recruiting agencies. Consider offering payment of $20 — $100 per session, perhaps in the form of a digital gift certificate.
2. The prototype
Having something visual is essential. It’s healthy to test with early stage designs — but the key is making sure that the slides don’t jump around or have distracting elements.
How to make your own: Create a series of screens that show a logical progression from one step to the next. Sketch.app, Balsamiq and Keynote are inexpensive and popular tools.
Colorful cards with emoji help separate each section of the prototype. They help keep people from getting lost during the test.
Clear start and end cards make it more obvious what is going on.
3. A feedback form for asynchronous feedback
This is the form that’s linked from the end of that prototype. This form is useful if you have a prototype that you want to share without moderation.
To make your own, use Google Forms templates or just copy this one — go to https://goo.gl/ff2P9i sign in and click `Make a copy` in the top right menu.
4. A script for the interviews
A script is essential for keeping your discussions focused. It’s good to allow open ended questions, but at the end of the day it’s important that you can compare the answers across each interview. If each interview is too different, you won’t be able to spot patterns.
Keep the script as simple as possible. Try to memorize it ahead of time. Keep it visual to make each section more memorable, and easier to discuss — use color coding to break up each section.
Rehearse several times, that way you can relax more in the interview. If you are struggling to stay organized, you won’t be able to gain insights on the fly or react to what you are really hearing.
Type your notes directly into each script.
Create a copy for each participant and just do it in about 30 minutes.
The most important rule: Keep strict watch on the time — don’t go over! Respect the fact that these people have other things they could be doing. You usually want to be able to talk to them again later, so it’s better if they are left feeling that you wrapped up before became a bore.
Overall the result of this process doesn’t need to be something that’s super fancy — the goal here is a process that is sustainable, meaningful and inclusive to the members of your team. Most importantly you want to get rapid feedback so those designers don’t get trapped overthinking things.
After each interview, be sure to give visibility of what happened, with a quick update in your group chat. You don’t need to have a big formal reporting process if everyone has been following along to the surprises and insights that come from each test.
By keeping your protocol light and testing as early as possible, you can avoid bad feelings when a participant gives critical feedback. By embracing (and projecting!) a sense of excitement and curiosity about the learning process, you can achieve a kind of buoyant humility which keeps your product healthy and your team happy.
If you aren’t in a routine like this it can take some effort to get your team into a routine — but once you’ve got it set up you can save huge amount of time and energy by identifying the best ideas as early as possible.