Prototyping for User Testing: Why It’s Necessary and How to Do It

Prototypes are handy as internal deliverables that communicate your ideas visually and interactively. But if that’s all you’re using them for, you’re missing out on the benefits they can offer in the form of user feedback. Conducting user testing with your prototypes is valuable because you can’t be sure you have a winning design until you have real data to back it up.

Begin by making several prototypes to test. This will give you more insight into the various aspects of the workflow solution. If you test just one design at a time, you and your participants won’t be able to compare designs in the assessment.

Then, based on your results, create a plan that addresses who you need involve and what the test script will contain. From this, you’ll be able to identify participants (ideally, real users) and a location. Run your tests, documenting your results in real time. Watching and listening carefully throughout the test will give you insight into the root causes of any problems participants encounter.

Tip: try not to use fake data or Lorem Ipsum text in your tests. The more realistic your data and text, the more your tester can engage with your prototype.

For even more great tips, check out the eight articles below that discuss the value and the detailed how-to of user testing prototypes.

Tips on Prototyping for Usability Testing

“The most effective research techniques involve observing participants doing things and talking about what they’re doing. Therefore, the best way to evaluate a new design is to create a prototype and give participants something concrete to interact with and react to.”

In this article, Jim Ross, Senior UX Researcher at AnswerLab, offers tips on both prototyping with user testing in mind and the testing phase itself. He stresses how important it is to be careful with fake names, fake data, and generic placeholders. He does a great job sharing how to explain and message the prototype to the test participants.

Why You Should Always Prototype & User Test Multiple Designs

“Visual designers, industrial designers, architects and so on will all typically create and trial multiple prototypes, so why should UX designers be any different?”

Here, Neil Turner, a UK-based UX designer, researcher, and trainer, explains why it’s so important for prototype designers to always test multiple designs.

Testing one design against another allows you to spread your bets, compare designs directly against one another, and gather more objective data — not to mention that it’s usually more fun. No one gets it right the first time, anyway. Turner also explains how to test multiple designs using comparative user testing and split user testing.

‘You Can’t Be Sure of Design Until You Bring in a User to Test It’ – 24 Hours with Eugene Boey of Section

“One of the most important components of UI/UX is actually having the user test it… I always emphasise to our clients that there are no right or wrong design solutions that we can be sure of until we bring them to the users. Unless the design is a horrible mess.”

This interview with Eugene Boey, creative partner at digital agency Section, will show you how one designer plans his day around user testing. It’s effectively a case study on how to engage in both formal and informal user testing, how to engage multiple audiences (including formal test subjects and coworkers), and how to leverage user feedback to drive design decisions.

How to launch online usability testing of Axure prototypes

“UX researchers and designers test prototypes prior to their implementation to a final product in order to prevent any issues which may arise after the final version is launched. There are many diverse tools which can be used for prototyping, one of the best ones is Axure. This tool is also extremely comprehensive and allows you to create interactive prototypes that reproduce a final user experience.”

In this article, our friends at UXtweak discuss how you can set up remote testing of your Axure prototypes. The steps that they lay out in the article break down the process of how you’ll configure your study in UXtweak and the steps you need to take in Axure RP and Axure Cloud. Like with all UXtweak studies, testers don’t need to install or do anything besides clicking on a link. It works on all desktops, tablets, and smartphone devices.

How to Conduct Usability Testing in Six Steps

“User testing is a humbling experience for a designer. You might be shocked to find that a user is confused about the way things work. Things that seem obvious to you.”

In this Toptal article, Jan Roose, a dedicated product designer who specializes in UX and AI, walks you through the six elements of user testing, from creating a prototype to documenting the results.

Roose also emphasizes the importance of a test plan so that you get real results based on the specific workflows you want users to accomplish with your product design. Check it out for lots of good, practical advice with specific examples and metrics new designers can leverage.

How to Conduct a Usability Test in Six Steps from Start to Finish

“Amazon’s Jeff Bezos invested in usability design 100 times more than in marketing during the portal’s first year. According to Bezos, this strategy was the one that led to Amazon’s overwhelming success.”

Here, UX Planet contributor Sophia Brooke distills the user testing process into specific steps, including a process for correcting issues after you have some test findings. Post testing, Brooke recommends generating multiple solutions and collaborating with your developer team to come up with new designs that address multiple issues simultaneously.

A UX Strategy is Worthless Without a Solid Usability Test Plan

“Testing with users is not only about making their experience better; it is also about getting more people to use your product. People will not use a product that they do not find useful, and they will choose the product that is most enjoyable and usable if they have options.”

This article from Sugandha Lahoti, Content Marketing Editor at Packt Hub, is built around a detailed discussion of how to plan and execute a usability test, including useful sample scripts and considerations for recruiting participants. As planning the questions you will ask during the test is a critical component of test planning, don’t skip this article.

Starting with User Experience: How to Run a Usability Test

“…user experience design has become a hot topic among marketers. When done correctly, UX testing can force your team to approach your brand from the perspective of an audience member.”

Though not targeted directly to prototype designers, this article from writer, editor, and marketer Kyle Harper focuses on how marketing professionals should consider UX testing to really understand users’ emotions and intentions. If you aren’t a UX professional and just want a high-level overview of the components of a UX test, this is a good place to start.

For an online usability testing platform with an Axure integration, check out UX Tweaks.

Putting It All Together

Conducting UX usability tests with real users is an important component of a great design process. Yes, it takes time and concerted planning to pull it together. But the reward at the end will be a great design with concrete data backing it up – and that’s a worthwhile trade for any business.