Digital Editor Hamilton Jones unravels the mystery of what user testing involves, and how Macmillan uses it to improve experiences of our products and services.
If you follow any of our social media channels at Macmillan, you may have noticed that we’re often looking for people to come and take part in user testing. We think of user testing as a great way to help us to improve the experience of our products and services, but what does it really mean? This piece aims to unravel the mystery of what user testing involves, what it can and can’t test and why we do it.
What does user testing involve?
User testing (often referred to as usability testing) refers to evaluating the effectiveness of a product or service through observation. In order for us to carry out user testing, we must engage with participants that represent our user base, plan tasks that will effectively test our products, and analyse our findings.
In practice, this involves participants trying to complete specific tasks, under controlled conditions, while we watch, listen and record qualitative and quantitative data about their experience. During the session, users are encouraged to think aloud by talking through their thought processes and decisions. This enables us to make notes on and discuss the user’s journey more clearly, helping to identify any usability issues raised.
After user testing is carried out, we are able to collate the data and work out what changes we need to make to improve future users’ experiences.
What can and can’t it test?
User testing can test how well people are able use our products or services for their intended purpose. This could include websites, micro-sites and apps, and can test interface and content. User testing is just one of the ways that helps us to understand our user’s needs and create holistic user-focused products and services. At Macmillan we also carry out surveys, monitor analytics, gather feedback, visit users in their environments and much more.
User testing does not focus on the user’s opinion, instead it tests their ability to complete a set task and whether this journey is good. Importantly this does not reflect the user’s abilities with digital platforms, but whether or not our products and services are user friendly enough for them to be able to complete the tasks.
Why do we do it?
User testing offers us direct input on how real people use our digital platforms, the issues they face and the changes we can make to ensure they have the best possible journey. It is vital in helping us to understand how people use and interact with our digital products and services. This is predominantly interactions with our website, but user testing can help us understand users’ interactions with any of our digital touchpoints.
We rely on all of these approaches to try to constantly improve our services for people affected by cancer. We often ask for people affected by cancer to get involved, to tell us what’s important to them, what challenges they might have and how we can improve their experience. Ultimately, it’s to make our digital products and services as helpful and supportive as possible for everyone who needs them.