By Ivan Nunez
May 11, 2017
Imagine you’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars developing a new app or digital product for your company.
Before launch, standard practice is to conduct usability testing to gauge the quality and functionality of the product. In other words, does it work? And can people figure out how to use it?
This kind of usability testing helps uncover technical pitfalls and refine products or services. However, it doesn’t tell us what users think or feel about the product experience.
Wouldn’t you also want to know if people find it valuable? And what if you could know the answer much earlier in the development process?
Design for Emotional Investment
With human-centered design, testing takes place early and often.
Prototype testing allows us to gather user feedback at the outset of a project to uncover conceptual pitfalls before investing in development.
We do this by testing not only the utility of the product or service, but also the emotional experience of it. In other words, do people find it valuable or meaningful? This is important, because ultimately emotional investment is what builds product loyalty. And emotions are what drive choice and behavior change.
Take for example popular ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. On the surface, both companies offer the same service through an app. Users request a ride, track the arrival of the ride, and pay for the service via the app.
Both services have mobile apps that are well-designed, simple to use, and functionally similar. Yet, most users have an affinity for one or the other. This is because people want experiences that align with their standards, and it’s very important to them. Testing for the emotional component of an experience allows us as designers to validate that we have met users standards.
Uncover the User’s Personal Narrative
It’s easy to say: Determine if people find your designs valuable. But in practice, it’s not quite so simple.
For one thing, a lot of testers don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. They’ll say how fond they are of a new service just to be nice, even though they wouldn’t spend their hard-earned cash to pay for it again.
To get to the core of what people think and feel about a product or service, we carefully write testing scripts that pair goals or tasks with questions that tease out motivations and attitudes.
Goal and task questions are direct. They use query words like “where” and “how.” The answers people give typically provide clarity of direction to the design team by explaining how users go about completing a task. To get to motivations and feelings, we pair those questions with “why” questions, as well as questions about how people “feel.”
We also observe users as they make interaction decisions with a prototype, and we engage them in conversation. We draw them out on the choices they make and have them elaborate about their expectations, whether or not they were met, and the overall perception of the experience. What we end up with are test results that note how people complete tasks, as well as their emotional reactions. We gather narratives that explain what they wanted—and what they got—from the experience.
Functionality + Experience = Full Assessment
Here’s one more scenario to wrap this up.
Imagine we’re conducting a usability test for an engagement platform to boost productivity and wellness. To gauge how effectively testers are able to use the platform, we ask questions like: “You want to create an account. Where would you click on the page to do that?”
But, we also pair these types of functional questions with qualitative ones encouraging users to share emotions or personal narratives. For example, we ask: “Tell me, what does creating a profile mean to you? What do you expect will happen if you try to continue without registering? How do you feel when you’ve had to create personal profiles online?”
In short, testing for experience—and not just functionality—provides us with the necessary insights to create innovative, meaningful engagements with people, and that’s what drives customer loyalty.
To learn more about prototyping and usability testing, contact us.