User testing and the usefulness of substantiated design

Suppose you are part of a team working on a new app that helps users discover flowers: Flowr. Users of this app can: – Create a profile and be part of a community – Discover flowers on the basis of their preferences – Give flowers a figure
You are a good designer, you go through all the steps. You look for inspiration on Behance and Dribbble, create a style sheet with color palette and choices for typography, you have already found some suitable photos on iStock and the mockups are ready for the first interim presentation with the customer. Everything is perfect pixel. But then you show it to a colleague. “Why is this button here?” “I find this part much more important.” “Why does an account take so long?” “Is this the intention?” “Yes, it looks nice.” You think: ‘Okay, I need some work …’ If your colleague does not understand, what will all those users experience when it is live?

New standards

They are praised: ‘Designers’. These are mainly interaction animators and artists who come up with beautiful online designs, as well as the gripping, graphic artworks of the twentieth century and the first web warriors that entered and designed the internet. But just think about the current digitized society; with our hyper-connected devices, constant information flow, smart household products and an enormous need for self-determination. Meanwhile, the same society also needs anonymity and peace. Designers who design products that people use every day will in any case have to take into account the ethical aspects of their inventions. Even your playful Flowr app does not escape these new standards. You are no longer alone.

Evidence based design

Media company Localytics carried out research into user retention with regard to apps in 2016. Within their userbase of 37,000 test persons, it appeared that on average 1 in 4 users leave an app and no longer use it within 1 day. Staying above water in the highly competitive tech world is a difficult task when Flowr has to take on 50,000 apps with flowers and a social aspect as the subject. How do you change Flowr in an app that does not create additional noise but just rest? By looking at the basic design principles of user experience design and performing user tests. A logical consequence of showing interest in your end users and a shapely, meaningful design is called evidence-based design – literally translated with evidence-based design. Evidence based design (EBD) is a field of study with an emphasis on credible evidence to influence design and behavior. Originally associated with psychology and architecture, it is gradually conquering the design world. Of course you want users to be enthusiastic about Flowr, then invite all their friends and use the app for all eternity. A challenging goal, which can be achieved by listening carefully to the relevant users and mapping their goals.


User tests and substantiated designs are not so much the tools, the amount of tests or the digging for answers; it’s about openness. Here are some tips that you should take into account for a successful user test: 1. Show interest To test Flowr before it goes to the customer, you invite a number of people from the office. They are offered a cup of coffee and a warm chair. Then they are led to an inviting, open office and they take a seat in a comfortable chair. This is the beginning of the partnership that you enter into with the test persons of your concept. A test person is a representative of the end users. They benefit as much from the outcome of the end product; it is intended that they use it. Their opinion is as important as any other party involved. 2. Show yourself from your ugliest side The first ideas can come about spontaneously; in the train, in front of the traffic light or in the shower. You sketch them briefly in a notebook and hand them over to a colleague. “Let’s talk about this,” you say with full conviction. “I’m curious!” Your colleague says. You want to keep this feeling within the entire process. Let the test person also taste the process. A first idea worked out in sketches is not beautiful but useful. Showing sketches to test persons, going through a fictitious scenario together (user journey or use case) and thinking aloud provides new insights and quick switching. The next version of your concept will look a lot nicer! A user test can go in all directions, the most important thing is that you can record the user’s sincere opinion. Both negative and positive feedback can have a drastic impact on the end product. In the beginning, a user test mainly asks for the story and the opinion of the test person, in order to be able to design optimally for them. As the process progresses and assumptions change into concrete parts of the app, testing changes. Now it will revolve around the clarity of the interface. A ‘usability test’ or ‘usability test’ is an all-encompassing exam for the developers of the concept. People who have not experienced the progress of the product are left to their fate with an advanced prototype. The results are of value because this is a simulation of a real user experience;
3. Be humble Test people are sincere because it concerns them what the final solution of the product will be. They are part of your development team on a part-time basis, partly because they invest time and attention in your idea. It is important for designers, even entire designer desks, to be humble and to thank them. Large companies such as Spotify, Facebook, Uber & Google are embracing the input from their users for all their products. They do this through analytical data, click behavior, interviews, reactions to forums, questions that people ask to customer service, employee experiences, surveys, opinion pillars, advertisements, target group research, beta testing, a select group of test persons, A / B testing and many other ways of user testing. The diverse palette also ensures that it is important to clearly define the design trajectory. Where are the ‘quick wins’; the small adjustments and how far should the team go until the project is considered ‘finished’? User testing is a practical course with multiple facets. You feel like a psychologist, engineer, forensic expert, film critic and data analyst in one. What has been researched and substantiated is then picked up by the entire development team. By constantly making small adjustments to the design instead of making big changes, the evolution of the product is clearly visible. You can see how the product and the team grows. Involving users in the project when it is still in development makes everyone a designer and problem solver. As a result, your entire team makes better products. After all, the process is no longer dominated by one person, because the opinions of all people involved count equally heavily. With the tips above you come a long way to involve end users in the development process. Would you like to know more about the execution of a user test? Read the blog “To Test or Not To Test” by colleague Mikel van den Oord.