User Testing: When Technology Insights Solve UX Problems

Sean Oakes bio picture Sean Oakes

Systematic user testing is a key part of developing any user experience strategy. Everyone on your product team wants to solve pain points as quickly as possible, and you’re eager to test whether you’ve created something that fulfills your user’s expectations.

You also hope user research and testing will give you insights that your marketing team can use to appeal to future customers. From a marketing standpoint, this testing approach seems like a win-win. But it can also leave your UX team and technologist without the technical information they need to solve real problems and offer groundbreaking solutions. 

User testing is so much more than ticking a box on the road to product launch. When you design user testing prompts that move beyond functionality, your UX team can leverage testing insights to solve complicated user problems in new, intuitive, and innovative ways.

Here’s how you can ensure that your researcher, technologist, and UX team employ user research to design more effective, user-centered products:

  1. Help your UXR specialist write questions that map to an actionable goal
    Before you get to the testing phase, work directly with your research technology specialist to develop questions that align with your technology and UX needs.
    Generate actionable goals related to product design or UX that you can map directly onto specific UXR questions. This will help you get a more accurate picture of how users will interact with your product. Actionable goals also give you a head start as you consider what to do with your research findings.
    If you’re developing a script, questions should center around the goal of the product rather than design elements or desired features. For example, you could ask teachers whether a product fits into their day, or whether they could use a product with a student sitting next to them. The answers to these questions will help you understand if you’ve met the big-picture goal of product design.
  2. Consider whether your UX problem is a technology problem
    We’ve all had an unexpected problem crop up during user testing. But what seems like a UX fix might instead be a technology fix. Is a user struggling because they don’t have access to the right technology for the product? Will incorporating machine learning help a teacher quickly grade or assess large amounts of student data instead of having to do it manually?For example, when Backpack designs a new onboarding process for teachers and administrators, we consider whether it’s appropriate for forms or data to auto-save throughout the process. Onboarding for a new product can take educators a long time, and automatically saving forms throughout the process often improves UX. However, from a technology standpoint, auto-save is a heavy lift! Without input from a technologist during the testing phase, it would be difficult to determine whether this “UX problem” could be solved efficiently on the backend.

    When UX teams and technologists work together, they’re able to suggest solutions that address fundamental problems instead of expending their efforts re-designing a product’s interface. Sometimes a UX problem really is a technology problem.

  3. Ensure that your UX team understands the user journey from a tech standpoint 
    In order to offer the best possible solutions, UX teams need to understand how users engage with technology. Which devices will the product be used on? Which parts of the product will get used on mobile? Who will maintain the product once it’s sold? What kind of workflow does this user have? How fast is the product on the user’s typical internet connection? How robust is the search function?Tech-related questions are easy to incorporate into user surveys at the beginning of the research process. Tech-driven user surveys will give your UX team all the relevant data they need to propose more effective solutions.
  4. Encourage collaboration during the solution phase
    Your UX and design teams should participate in recommendations for what happens with front-end development. Increased collaboration between technologists and UX designers makes it easier to determine whether a technological solution or an interface solution will help your users accomplish their goals best. Ultimately, you want your team to have more opportunities to explore broad, creative solutions to tricky user problems.
  5. Use accessibility as an additional tech and UX benchmark
    Designing and testing for accessibility adds expense to your bottom line, but the research and testing process contains opportunities to address accessibility without breaking the bank.For instance, a product’s speed or its lightweight feel is an issue of equity. Old or poor quality hardware makes new digital products more difficult to use, but you’ll still find outdated, sluggish computers in many school districts with low IT budgets.If you view accessibility as a technology issue, it’s possible to incorporate the right questions into your user testing to ensure compliance—and design more accessible products in the long run.

How to Leverage User Testing to Develop an Innovative User Experience Strategy

For better or worse, you can’t ask users to come up with big ideas about your product on their own.

Instead, you’ll need to develop a strategic framework that takes user conversations and funnels them into user experience strategy and iteration.

Conversations that unpack user testing, overarching product goals, and technology solutions will allow your team to truly think about user experience strategy — not just generate a new wishlist of product features.

Here’s how to stay on track as you prepare for user testing and delve into the results:

  • Do your homework. Once you’ve conducted desk research and preliminary strategic concept discussions with the product team, you’ll go into interviews ready to consider what you learn through the lens of experience and expertise. 
  • Use deep listening techniques. When you use deep listening to get to the heart of a product, you uncover unexpected solutions that solve your user’s problems in more innovative ways.
  • Reflect as a group. Gather stakeholders, the product team, developers, and your research technology specialist to reflect on what you learned throughout the user testing process. It’s important to build in time at the end of user testing to listen. Multiple perspectives on user testing conversations often lead to “ah-ha” moments of clarity for everyone on the project.

    Whether you’re months away from generating user research questions or getting ready to observe users interact with your product, look for opportunities to listen, reflect, and collaborate on technology problems with the input of your UX team.

    Not only will you hit on more innovative, user-centered technology and design solutions, but you’ll also create a stronger product that solves real problems for your users. That’s the kind of product destined to make a difference—and tick all the boxes for your stakeholders.

    Let’s build the future of digital products together.