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Product Development

How to User Test Your Product for Any Phase of Development

May 28, 2021

There's never a bad time for user testing. But where your product is when it's in development has a lot of influence when it comes to delivering optimal results.

Are you gearing up for a big product launch, or is your product already out there? Do you have a community of customers you can tap into? What about your coworkers? Identifying where you are in this journey — and the resources you have available — will make it much easier to narrow your options, decide the most useful goals for your user test, and recruit the testers who are best suited to help you achieve them.

This article shares key considerations for the best type of user test for your product, based on where it's at in development. These quick insights will help you identify which user tests will deliver actionable, real-world-driven recommendations and move the needle toward success, whether you're building up to a launch or planning for your next release.

If You're in the Research Phase...

Then you need to have a full grasp on the competitive landscape and identify which gaps in the marketplace your product has the potential to fill. Enter competitive analysis user testing.

The goal of competitive analysis user testing is straightforward: It lets you study the relationship between your potential customers and products similar to yours on the market. This includes

  • Identifying your potential (or current) customers' true needs
  • Assessing the gaps with the current solutions (your future competition)
  • Understanding the pains and delights of your competitors’ products
  • Observing how they're using their favorite key features

While competitive analysis user testing typically happens during initial product development alongside other forms of market research, it's also useful after launch. It can reveal how your product stacks up against the competition and highlight how to develop features that will set your product apart.

If You're Getting Ready to Launch Your Product...

Then you're probably gearing up to test it with real users in real homes to drive it through that last mile in development — also known as product release user testing or beta testing.

Product release user testing is a perfect opportunity to see how your product and its key features will perform out in the real world. It leverages feedback from target market testers to identify, prioritize, and address the fixes and improvements that have the greatest impact on user experience. Its primary goals are

  • Discovering issues in unique environments, from the critical, to the disruptive, to the "no big deals"
  • Surfacing and qualitatively prioritizing usability issues
  • Assessing target market users' satisfaction with your product's features and interface
  • Learning firsthand how target market users are interacting with areas like unboxing, setup, daily usage, etc.

With product release user testing, everything — from packaging to testers' in-home tech stacks — should be as close to the "real thing" as you can get. For example, your product should be at least 90% feature-complete, and your test units should have close to retail packaging and accessories. Finally, your testers should be in your target market, meaning they share the same technographic and demographic traits of your future customers. This alignment is essential to getting relevant insights and making informed decisions that increase product success.

If You've Already Launched Your Product...

Then your next release is already on your mind because it's right around the corner. What can you do to improve existing user experiences, validate upcoming features, and increase both customer satisfaction and product usability in a fast-paced, constantly evolving technological landscape? The answer is product iteration user testing.

The methodology behind product iteration user testing is in the name. It relies on a community of existing customers to user test new product iterations on a sprint-by-sprint basis. This allows for

  • Driving your product backlog with continuous customer validation
  • Surfacing and resolving issues prior to them reaching your happy customers
  • Tracking improvement metrics by assessing the delta between product versions

While the goals of product iteration user testing align closely to the goals of product release user testing, they happen within a much tighter, more Agile timeframe. This laser-focused scope of testing ensures you're getting the best of both worlds: keeping pace with the relentless demands of continuous testing while ensuring every release has been customer-validated for quality, satisfaction, and real-world performance.

And Don't Forget Your Secret Weapon…

When it comes to getting your product into the hands of real-world users, don't overlook the insights that come from customer zero user testing.

There's more to customer zero user testing than asking your coworker to do a sanity check before launch and each iterative release. Your coworkers and employees — especially when they're outside of your immediate team — can provide high-value, real-world insight, similar to your actual customers. But there’s so much more you can get from the people in your company. Common applications are

  • Training your internal teams on how to use and support the product
  • Bug-hunting in the real world while maintaining the security of employees
  • Leveraging the technical insights of employees to improve the whole ecosystem

Getting your product into the hands of employees also has the added benefit of promoting a product culture within your organization. It invites employees to get to know your product firsthand. And when they see their input put into practice, they'll be more invested in and unified around its success.

Know What You Need? Let's Make It Happen

Now that you have an idea of what you need from your user testing efforts, let's get you on the right track for making it happen. Schedule a quick session with our Centercode user testing experts for a totally free, no-strings-attached consultation on the tools and resources that'll help you perfect your product.

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