In the past, products were defined as a tangible good. But with advances in technology, products aren't limited to the physical realm anymore. A piece of accounting software, an online education program or even a women's conference are all products offered by companies today. And some of the most successful companies in the world are using insights from user testing methods to improve product quality, to serve their customers better and to scale.
How Can User Testing Improve Product Quality?
Whether your product is something you sell in stores or online or it's an experience you offer, user testing can provide actionable insights that can help you gain—and retain—more customers.
User testing involves bringing your customers into the process before, during and/or after product development by having them perform a series of tests.
These user tests, which can be performed online, in-person or both, can give you insight into what customers are thinking, help you identify bugs or issues with your product and allow you to gauge interest in your product.
I encourage clients to build user testing into multiple phases of the product planning process. The insights you gather from user testing can help improve product quality by providing you with information that you wouldn't find anywhere else that can help guide you in determining product priorities, resolving bugs or identifying missing requirements.
Popular User Testing Methods and Tools
Ever wish you knew what a potential customer was thinking?
Wondering why they gave your product a bad review?
Curious why so many customers are leaving items in their online shopping carts?
User testing can help you answer these questions and more by giving you insights into your customer's experience. There are a variety of user testing methods you can use to get information on how potential and existing customers are using your products or if a flaw in your marketing materials (like your website) or sales cycle is preventing them from even getting to it.
The type of user testing that you select will depend on your product, your target customers and where the product is in the product development lifecycle. For example, if your product is offered online like B2B accounting software, you may want to implement a series of methods that include usability testing to make sure you're able to collect feedback on a wide range of customer experiences including getting to the product as well as product usage.
Here are three popular methods and sample tools you can use to gain insights into your customer's experience and improve product quality.
Usability testing is designed to help you understand how a user is using your product. During a usability test, a member of your team will watch a user walk through your product (in-person or online) and then document the results. A few free online tools you can use for your usability test are:
- UserTesting: an on-demand platform that's designed to help uncover “the why" behind your customers' actions.
- Hot Jar: an analytics and feedback tool that gives you unlimited insights.
- UsabilityHub: a remote-user testing platform, providing a suite of testing tools.
One common user testing method is focus groups. A focus group involves getting a small group of your customers together to discuss your product and share their concerns and feedback. Focus groups are usually run by a moderator who can be a member of your team or a third party who specializes in running focus groups.
Sometimes the best time to get information on a product is before the product's finished. In this case, beta testing is a great user-testing method that can help you quickly improve product quality by getting real-time feedback from users before the product launches.
Software development companies are well-known for beta tests, but this method of testing is frequently used in other industries as well. If you're looking for a low-cost tool to track user feedback, you can use a spreadsheet or a project management tool like Asana or Jira.
Surveys are a low-cost and unobtrusive method for gathering insights. You can leverage one of the many online survey tools like SurveyMonkey or Typeform to collect data or create your own survey and include it in your product packages or in your store.
Regardless of where you are in the product development lifecycle, and whether you're launching a new product or making updates to an existing one, consider making time for customer feedback. Doing so can help you gather data that can help improve product quality and customer engagement long after launch.
Read more articles on product development.