Remote Prototype and Wireframe Testing

In How to conduct Remote Prototype and Wireframe Testing, we show you how to cost-effectively test your wireframes and/or prototypes in an online-based testing environment. Whether your prototype is “skin-and-bones”, high-fidelity, or just testing out a few minor changes to your current design.

What is Remote Prototype Testing?

Prototype

“Remote Prototype Testing and ‘traditional’ remote user testing differ in that your prototype is not a live webpage, but is a hosted interactive experience for your participants in a secure testing environment.”

Often before organizations launch a new site or complete a redesign, they will develop what is called a wireframe, or prototype. This prototype serves as the “bare bones” model of the site before any actual changes are made.

For example, if an e-commerce company was thinking about redesigning their site, they would most likely implement a prototype to test if users can still easily navigate their site for products or complete a purchase, despite changes.

Essentially, prototype testing allows you to test a basic version of a site before heavy time is dedicated toward developing and coding this new property.

When is Remote Prototype Testing Useful?

User testing is great, and if given more time and budget, many companies would probably be conducting more testing. Even when you are in the early stages, building wireframes and prototypes, incorporating user testing is really useful.

Testing prototypes remotely can prove useful in a variety of situations:

  • Cost-effectively and rapidly test your potential redesign to hundreds (or thousands) of participants
  • Find out first impressions with before and after questionnaires
  • Test navigation patterns – ‘where would users click to access specific information?’
  • Concept & communication effectiveness testing

How to Design a Prototype Test in 5 Steps

A solid prototype test is only as good as your planning. Thus, there are 5 steps every UX Team should consider before beginning this type of test:

  1. Identify the goals and metrics you want to test. This way you will be able narrow down the prototype needed to be created.
  2. Fully plan and design your prototype to be used for the evaluation. It’s highly recommended that your prototype be at least somewhat usable, to ensure the right design decisions are made – no matter the level of fidelity.
  3. Define the task and users who will be tested. A clear task and an appropriate number of users should be used that your team agrees upon to achieve the most actionable results.
  4. Implement your test. Use a remote usability testing tool to implement your study – shameless plug, we know.
  5. Analyze your data. Much like you would with a live website, looking at heatmaps, task success/error ratios and other task-related data will ultimately help you and your team draw actionable insights for design changes in the future.

3 key steps to creating your first prototype test:

  1. Don’t Worry, It’s Just A Prototype! In your welcome/invitation screen, it is important to include an explanation to your participants they are working with a prototype and not a real website. This will ensure participants know how much functionality to expect when completing tasks.
  2. Give Your Participants Choices. While your prototype doesn’t need to be anything “fancy” with sweet graphics and whatnot, your testing environment MUST be somewhat interactive and include paths for success and error so you can code task success (and error) accordingly.
  3. Remember to Tag! People often forget to tag success areas (using Javascript, etc) or have a “success page” to accurately measure their data before sending out the study to participants. For example, you may really want to know if someone clicks the “submit” button on your shopping cart page, but if the submit button has no tagging on it, there is no way to know it was clicked (if the URL doesn’t change on submit)

What results can you expect from a Remote Prototype Test?

Actually, it depends on the level of fidelity or how advanced the wireframe or prototype is. The results you can get are pretty much the same as when you run a remote/online usability test for any live website, including:

  • Task success rate: % of participants that completed the task successfully
  • Time on task
  • Before and after task survey data
  • Behavior: Clickstreams and click heatmaps

In the case a prototype is in the early stages (low fidelity) and you just want to test 1st click on the homepage (or where users click to access a certain page), then you may want to run a simple screenshot click test and get just effectiveness and heatmaps.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how early or late you are in the design process. You can conduct remote testing over any web-based interface or product, either with live websites or hosted prototypes. And you should be testing prototypes, as the longer you wait to test and find how effective your design is, the more costly it becomes to make changes to it.

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