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Prepare for Testing


Get feedback to uncover insights and develop next steps to improve solutions. 

Effective ways to do this include:

  1. Download this Test 1-pager to ask key questions about your prototype and incorporate them in the testing plan
  2. Confirm the date of user and/or expert testing
  3. Answer the following questions:
    • What did you already learn by bringing your prototype to life?
    • Where are you conducting your test? See below for information about where you can test.
    • How are you running your test? See below for types of tests
      • What will you ask users to do?
      • What questions will you ask?
    • How are you applying interview techniques to get helpful, unbiased answers?
    • How are you ensuring that your tests help you answer the important questions you have for each concept?
  4. Define testing roles with your team members
    • 1 main facilitator, 1 note taker
  5. Prepare your testing environment
    • Make sure your prototypes communicates your concepts clearly or work expected before having someone test them.
    • For in-studio tests - make sure space is inviting for users and create a focused environment where the user will focus on your concept and prototypes.
    • For in-field tests - make sure the prototypes are durable enough to survive unexpected situations.
  6. Conduct your test
  7. Debrief with your team right away when thoughts are fresh! 

Testing Location

A testing location can affect the variables you are able to monitor and the preparation required to test. There are two main options to user testing: a controlled environment (generally your studio) or a natural environment (the field). Both produce different results, sp a combination could bring the best of both worlds!

  • In the Studio: In user testing, a controlled space gives your team an opportunity to focus users’ attention on particular interactions, choices, and experiences. Your team can even create realistic simulations through scenery, props, and actors that make users feel like they are in another place. Generally, setting up in the studio is easier and quicker than doing so in the field, which makes it especially helpful early on in building and testing. Studio also provides a more targeted environment for your users and let your team capture data more easily.
  • In the Field: Field-testing is necessary for seeing if the solution fits into the larger ecosystem and functions properly among the many variables a user will encounter. Accessing an ideal setting can be difficult when permission is needed, but the benefits can be immense as unexpected insights might be revealed in real-world situations.

Testing Techniques

Common techniques that DFA teams and professional designers use to test their solutions with users include:

  • Interviews & Focus Groups: Question-based interviews allow your team to query the user regarding their thoughts and feelings about your prototype. Focus groups are when this is done in groups rather than individually.
  • Think-alouds: Think-alouds encourage users to speak their stream-of-consciousness as they interact with your prototype. The hope is to elicit feelings or opinions they might not vocalize otherwise.
  • Observations: Watching how a user interacts with your team’s prototype can reveal functions or features that are not clear to your user. Some of the same methods from user research can be used (see User Research).
  • Task & Time Studies: One measure of usability is the time it takes for a user to complete a process or task. Identifying tasks that require more time than expected is one way to learn how to improve a prototype. 

Network Best Practices

Implement an event to test a larger idea like DFA Rensselaer

In Spring 2015, DFA Rensselaer prototyped their concepts to reduce waste of reusable goods on campus. Among 4 concepts, they chose to prototype a concept (holding a Swap Meet named “Drop or Swap”) that would test the essential parts of the concept. Many users participated in the event and the teams got to not only observe the users but also ask for user feedback at the end of the event. Check out their 4 concepts here

Test with multiple stakeholders like DFA MSU

DFA MSU’s worker safety team actively tested their prototype with various stakeholders and users to see how the solution would actually work in the field. The team based their HCW on their insight that absence of clearly defined identification responsibilities lead to miscommunication of hazardous conditions. The final prototype was a standing box, named MarkMe, of various safety equipments placed on every floor of the buildling to make the safety equipments centralized and easy to find. Check out their user feedback!