Experiencing technology firsthand is central to our mission here at Centercode. That’s why when our CEO Luke brought the Oculus Quest all-in-one VR system into the office, we did what any dedicated tech enthusiasts would do: we took turns playing Beat Saber.
Was it entirely in the name of research? I’ll let you decide that one. But using the Oculus Quest did get us thinking about what goes into Customer Validation for VR and emerging tech. Below is a summary of our discussion on the testing strategies that bring delightful VR products to market.
Evaluating Real-World VR Performance
You can’t get a holistic view of a commercial product by testing it before it’s feature complete. The feedback you get won’t be an accurate reflection of your true customer experience. Testing your product in the real world before you launch helps you surface and resolve any issues, collect ideas, and get a head start on iteration.
Consider, for example, that the Oculus Quest has a hardware component, software component, the Oculus mobile app, and its own internal app store where players can purchase and manage their games. You would want to examine how all of these pieces work together and how they affect the user experience as a whole, rather than testing each piece separately.
To get all the illuminating data that Customer Validation facilitates, you want the product you’re testing to include true-to-launch components wherever possible. This means it’s feature complete and includes elements like the instruction manual and commercial packaging.
Collecting Feedback from Actual Customers
Customer Validation gives you a direct line to your users – their interests, habits, the things that excite or frustrate them – all of which help you develop your roadmap and product strategy.
This is crucial for a VR product like the Oculus Quest, which may appeal to a broader audience than previous systems because of its portability. Testing with customers does the double duty of confirming earlier user research and expanding on it with nuanced attitudes and sentiments.
Having testers use your product also means you’ll get a mix of individuals that are both new to VR and have experience with other systems. This would allow Oculus to see how their product stacks up against brands like HTC, Valve, and Samsung.
Gathering Live Environment Data
Our office has a big open space that’s perfect (almost too perfect) for using VR. But the portability of the Oculus Quest means there are hundreds of other environmental use cases their team would theoretically test. How does the system work at the park, the beach, on a plane? How does humidity affect it – do the lenses fog up? You want to look at natural, real environments.
This is all to say that there’s a limit to what you can afford to test in a lab. That’s why getting your product into the hands of real customers out in the real world is so valuable. Testers are supplying data on how your product performs in their homes, amid hundreds of different environmental factors that you don’t have to simulate, speculate on, or pay for.
Letting Your Testers Soak It In
By allowing your product to “soak in” with testers, you can collect data on how their usage and attitudes change over time. Prolonged use (over days, weeks, months, or on a continuous basis) sheds more light on the consumer-product relationship than other pre-release testing methods.
Understanding these scenarios is essential to VR because of its unique effects on the body. For example, eyestrain is a common side effect of prolonged exposure to screens. But it hits VR gameplay more acutely. It’s critical to look at how the product components (like the headset) play into the user experience and its impact on the frequency of use and overall satisfaction.
Getting direct insight on how your customers use your products in real environments over time is fundamental to accurate customer testing – and to understanding your larger target market.
To learn more about the four pillars of CV and how they apply to other emerging tech products, check out our ebook, Customer Validation in 20 Minutes.