UX Prototype Testing: Methods and Best Practices
UX prototype testing is essential in the early stages of product development.
Gathering feedback on a prototype allows you to fail fast, fail early, and move on. Testing limits the cost of failure and allows you to learn from your mistakes in the next iteration. User testing prototypes also help you establish usability issues and ideas for new product features.
Clearly, UX prototype testing can provide lots of value for your business. But how do you go about it?
What Is a UX Prototype?
A prototype is a model of a physical or digital product. UX projects mostly deal with digital prototypes, e.g., a version of an app, website, platform, or piece of software.
Prototypes show the basic features you wish to include in your product. They also might show aspects of design, such as aesthetic elements or functional elements, depending on where you are in the design process.
The purpose of your prototypes is to allow designers, developers, or engineers to test the functionality of your digital product. For example, whether users can find a page easily, whether a button in your app works, and so on.
There are many benefits of UX prototype testing. Most importantly, prototypes reduce risk.
Prototypes ensure that you’re creating the right product for your target audience, and that every design feature is usable and meets your audience's needs. You get to refine your product now so that you don’t run into problems later.
The UX Prototype Testing Process
Testing prototypes is an iterative process. Shane Ketterman at UX Planet writes, “User testing is performed at all stages of the design process, and the most impactful results are achieved using prototypes due to the immediate value given back to the design team.”
You test and improve the product repeatedly during the development process until you end up with something that users love and that functions perfectly. This happens in three stages: paper prototypes, click-through prototypes, and interactive prototypes.
1. Paper Prototypes
This is a type of low-fidelity prototype that may consist of sketches or pencil drawings on paper. You can use paper prototypes to create mockups of web pages or mobile app screens (wireframes) for usability testing.
Create paper prototypes at the very beginning of the design stage as they’re cost effective, quick, and easy to produce and revise. The other great thing about this form of prototype is that its simplicity enables the entire team to get involved in the design process.
Use paper prototypes to perform simple user tests. You might want to test visual design details or user flows for example.
2. Click-Through Prototypes
The next step is to create higher-fidelity clickable prototypes using prototyping tools. Click-through prototypes consist of digital mockups of web pages or app screens. Users are able to click on hotspots, which link to the next page or screen.
Adobe XD is a great prototyping tool that allows you to design layouts and wireframes, and create interactive prototypes. Alternatively, you can upload your Photoshop designs to tools like Adobe XD or InVision to make them clickable.
You can also use this type of prototype to test user flows. But the benefit here is that you provide a more realistic example of the user experience.
3. Interactive Prototypes
Once you've revised user flows, you get to the really fun stuff — high-fidelity, digital or interactive prototypes. These allow you to showcase elements of visual design and UX during the later stage of the design process.
Again, you can use Adobe XD or InVision to create high-fidelity, highly interactive prototypes. Other popular prototyping tools include Origami, Sketch, Axure, and Framer.
Interactive prototypes closely resemble the final product. This means you can use them for advanced user testing. Many companies we work with at Teston use our platform to create video recordings of real users interacting with their prototype at this stage.
After testing prototypes, you can make additional improvements to UX and visuals based on testers' reactions. Then you’re ready to launch your final product.
UX Prototype Testing Best Practices
Now that you know what each stage of prototype testing entails, you need to make sure you get the most out of your tests.
Valuable, relevant feedback during the development process is an essential part of the product life cycle. Seventy-nine percent of consumers say experience is as important as the product when it comes to making a purchase decision. Prototype testing enables you to create that positive experience.
Here are some best practices for preparing and executing user tests.
Explain the Test to Users
Maybe you’re a fabulous tech mogul or a top notch developer. The users who test your product, however, might not be.
So you need to thoroughly explain how a prototype works. The paths users take within your product prototype may lead to dead ends right now. But the final product will display all of the correct information. And this shouldn’t affect their judgement or ability to carry out tasks.
For testing purposes, you might wish to add a simple message stating that the user has reached the end of the content and can return to the previous page or homepage.
Choose the Right Users
Test your prototype on your target audience. This ensures you provide the optimal experience for people who are actually going to use your product. You may wish to segment users according to different demographics to give you a better understanding of your customers.
Remember that you also want useful, unbiased results — i.e., a genuine, authentic reaction to your product. At Teston, we don’t use experienced user testers as they can skew results.
Ask Meaningful Questions
What is the goal of your test? Streamline your questions to focus on your main objectives. For instance, if you hope to improve usability, frame your questions to acquire positive and negative feedback on how easy your product is to use.
You might ask questions like:
- How do you feel while using the product?
- What features would you add to the product?
- What would make you recommend this product to a friend?
If you’re still struggling to come up with the right questions, Teston can provide templates to give you ideas.
Use Realistic Scenarios
Your product may just be a prototype for now, but you want the experience to be as close to the real thing as possible.
Perhaps you haven’t made final decisions on all of your design elements, e.g., the titles of web pages, the imagery, and so on. You should still aim to create an authentic experience for your test, however.
For example, rather than labelling a page, “Page 1”, use a realistic label like “Features” or “Services”.
Furthermore, set realistic tasks for testers to mimic what users may encounter while using your product. Teston uses an unmoderated environment. We find that Teston’s user panels are more likely to give an honest response if they feel like they’re simply going about their business at home.
Run your user tests on the appropriate platforms. Let’s say you’re creating a mobile app. You need to test user experience on both mobile and tablet as users might use both in the real world.
One of the main aims of UX testing is to find and fix issues. So be open to critiques and don’t take them personally even if this prototype is your baby.
Moreover, the users themselves may come up with ideas for features you can add in the next iteration. But you’ll only notice this if you’re flexible.
You also need to be flexible about your user testing methodology. If an interesting point about your product comes up, don’t be afraid to throw out your script and adapt your user tests.
Gather Valuable Feedback With UX Prototype Testing
Prototype testing helps you refine your product and the overall user experience. Implement tests early on to discover usability issues and areas for improvement.
The first steps of the testing process are comprised of simple mockups. These prototypes are vital for establishing user flows.
Interactive prototypes allow you to go a step further and test the aspects of UX design necessary to perfect your final product. Throughout testing, make sure you provide as realistic and authentic an experience as possible. And don’t forget to be open to new ideas.
That way, you will gain the most valuable feedback from your prototype tests.