7 Best Practices for Testing Digital Products in Schools

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

User testing is exciting. You finally get to see your edTech product at work as 25 little people in a classroom begin pushing all the buttons on your product at once.

Testing digital products in schools also presents a number of challenges for product designers.

For example, there might not be enough time in your schedule—or enough wiggle room in your budget—to make substantive changes.

Or the questions developed by your UX team might gently color a user’s experience of your product, giving you inaccurate data about how new users engage with each feature.

Set your team up for success by thinking through user testing in schools from the very beginning of the process. Here’s how we design user testing to get to the heart of your users in their every-day environment.

User Testing in Schools: Getting to the Heart of Your Users in their Environment

  1. Develop the right mindset. You’ve already tested your prototypes. You’ve iterated your product along the way. You’ve even road-tested it with users. By the time you’re ready to test in schools, you might think there are no surprises left. But that’s where your mindset can shift. The point of user testing is to discover the many unexpected ways users will interact with your product. It’s important to remain open-minded to the possibility of change, even late in the game. After all, small changes in your UX can create a much better experience for your users.

  2. Build design changes into your schedule and budget. To get the most value out of testing, incorporate design changes into your schedule and budget. Be clear with your team about the differences between cosmetic changes that won’t impact a product’s success and changes that will make a lasting, positive impact on your user’s experience. Use all the feedback you receive from testing to improve your product’s UX in substantive ways.

  3. Choose a true sample of users.Testing reveals how the average user learns to engage with your product in real time. For the data to be most effective, strike a balance between testing internal and external users. Internal users will give you important insights into how the product should work in an ideal world. External users, especially those who aren’t tech savvy, reveal what might be confusing or unexpected about your product.

  4. Identify specific microflows that are essential to the product. At this point, it’s probably been awhile since you thought about how students and teachers log in to your product. Or how teachers create a new class. Or how students engage with their peers on your platform. Think through the microflows that are most meaningful in each user journey and focus your attention there during testing. What did students have difficulty doing? What features confused or excited them?

  5. Concentrate on functionality. Help your users focus on functionality by incorporating clickable wireframes and other prototyping into your testing process. Wireframes eliminate any potential distractions created by visual design and allow users to really think about how a product works. Screensharing and heatmapping tools also help you see where users are directing their mouse. Are they wandering around on screen? Skipping over the login button because they expect it to be located in a different corner of their monitor? Be open to changing visual designs based on what you see after testing functionality first.

  6. Design open-ended questions. If you “lead the witness” in user testing, you’re not going to get a real answer about your product. Open-ended questions allow you to dig into responses and discover whether users are getting what they should out of your product.

  7. Understand — and prepare for — the school environment. It’s good practice for both product owners and the UX team to be in the room when users test products. This is especially true in school environments, which might have outdated hardware or bad internet connections. These hurdles are easy to forget in the comforts of your own office. The technology available in schools will also affect your testing outcomes. Make your product as lightweight as possible and scale it for the ChromeBook, which is commonly used in schools. Observe how the school environment impacts the ways your users interact with the product. Were there any unexpected stumbling blocks that might impact your UX or UI?

Done right, user testing reveals how your product will help students learn a new concept or guide teachers to create detailed reports about their classrooms. This crucial process also reveals where you can still improve the UX and UI in meaningful ways for your users.

Time and again, we’ve seen how a thoughtful, data-driven user testing process affects final product design in surprising ways. With these best practices in place, you’ll be ready to tackle user testing for any edTech product and give your users exactly what they need.

Let’s build the future of digital products together.