“Is my prototype testable?” It’s a frequently asked question when running usability studies with a prototype that isn’t fully functional.
The rule of thumb is the more complete the prototype, the better.
I’ve run usability testing for over eight years now, and I keep reviewing prototypes that are quite limited. Despite that, some professionals new to UX research expect many insights to validate the design hypothesis based on just a few pages. If you are only ‘validating’ your prototype, maybe it is time to manage your expectations about the feedback you are likely to receive.
Testing prototypes at an early stage and failing fast is excellent. Just don’t expect a massive amount of insights if users cannot do much with them, you are asking them the wrong questions or you only run one test.
Besides, running usability tests on prototypes requires a different approach than testing a live site. Spending more time on improving your prototype and writing tasks that bear in mind any relevant limitations usually pays off.
Here are some guidelines about testing prototypes:
Usually, there are three levels of fidelity: sketches, low fidelity and high fidelity.
Research questions for early-stage sketches usually include:
Research questions for a low fidelity prototype typically include:
Research questions for high fidelity prototypes usually include:
You must know how your prototype works in detail, and also what is not working, in order to get relevant comments about a usability issue instead of a prototype limitation.
Also, reviewing your prototype length and depth will help you to define the amount of insight you will be able to get from it. There are four levels of insights:
If you are not happy with the level of insight you might get from your prototype, add more levels or pages to allow users to complete more tasks. Make sure to include main pages and subpages so users can navigate them and complete a task.
If you don’t have enough time or resources to improve your prototype, expect less feedback and test often.
Moderated or unmoderated? I use Userzoom (of course!) to run UX studies for our clients.
Recruiting participants on our user research platform is faster when launching unmoderated studies. However, you can run moderated sessions to probe further. Userzoom allows you to run both moderated and unmoderated studies. It depends how much time do you have available and how many whys you need to ask.
Make a list of usability issues and findings and provide granular feedback indicating what is not working and why.
Not enough insights yet? Your test results are as insightful as your prototype and your research questions.
Also, testing your prototype once, will not give you enough insights to refine your product. Validating prototypes is not enough. Test often, get some feedback, iterate. Be brave and pivot if needed. You will find your way to a fantastic product!