A brilliant flash of inspiration to create the perfect website design, or cutting edge app, or new user experience.

So the next stage is to build it, release it and see what happens.

Or, is it?

There is an alternative to the ‘if you love it, set it free’ approach to digital development. User testing can be incorporated into your process at any time and will give you insights into what works for your target audience and what doesn’t. From paper prototyping to post-launch check ups there is always time for user testing. And it can be as simple or extensive as you want it to be.

Here’s the lowdown on the times and stages for user testing.

Early testing

The phrase ‘fail fast’ is a positive one for the early stages of development. This liberating notion allows you to test and discard ideas before you have committed yourself too heavily to them. Testing at this stage will focus users on the function of digital experience. It can be applied to interactive wireframes onscreen or to paper prototyping, and the low-fi approach means that less time, effort and emotion has been invested in the project before you get the results of the user testing. It also makes it easy to test a couple of different options.

Illustration of the paper prototype user testing approach

Paper prototyping from YouGenics

Design based testing

By creating some static HTML pages for the site/app/experience you can begin to test both the information and graphic design elements. How do people react to the look and feel, is the top level nav doing its job, do they know the hamburger menu, is the animated flying bird gif distracting or cool? (It’s distracting, but it never hurts to test that for yourself.)

Staging site testing

Put your functioning site into the hands of some testers for validation, challenge and endorsement. You can specifically create task-based scenarios to answer any lingering concerns and/or delve into open feedback and user reactions to your creation.

Post launch testing

It is never too late to test, any testing is good testing, and all insights are valuable … however you may be looking at a ‘Phase 2’ if user testing does not occur until after you have launched the site.