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Iterative usability tests

Iterative usability tests - should I do them?

In my professional practice, I sometimes come across the opinion that there is no time and money for testing. It makes me wonder - what about the resources used to implement a product that will not satisfy users?  Usability testing is an integral part of a thoughtful design process. It helps produce intuitive, valuable products that create a positive user experience. Tests help us understand how users interact with the product and what problems they encounter along the way.

The RITE method (Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation) is a special form of classic usability testing. What makes it different is that the prototype is modified in the process. When 1-3 participants encounter a usability problem, the prototype can be updated before the next test.In my professional practice, I sometimes come across the opinion that there is no time and money for testing. It makes me wonder - what about the resources used to implement a product that will not satisfy users? 

RITE Method

Pros and cons of the RITE method

Like any other solution, the RITE method has its fans and sceptics. It all depends on our priorities and resources. So before you decide whether to include RITE in your project, I would advise you to objectively assess the balance of benefits and risks. Below is a quick guide that should make this easier:

The pros of iterative tests:

They allow you to detect and fix usability problems early, as well as validate the fixes you come up with. They demonstrate how users interact with the validated product. This means you get valuable insights and can reject the wrong hypothesis quickly. They can be adapted to project requirements and clients' needs. They provide data that simplify the decision-making process and make talking to stakeholders easier.

The cons:

Your team needs to be involved to make decisions and implement fixes quickly. There is a limited number of users testing each iteration. This means it is hard to assess how significant a usability issue they encounter really is. You might spend time redesigning your product to fix an issue that will affect less than 1% of users. The project length may be extended, which makes setting the end date tricky.

What to keep in mind during RITE testing

RITE tests require a lot of focus, agility and flexibility from the testing team. To succeed you need to prep accordingly. I usually include the following steps in the preparation phase:

  • Identify your goal. Make sure you have a good understanding of the problems you are trying to solve and the objectives you are trying to achieve. Clearly define the criteria for each testing phase.
  • Know your target audience. This will help you recruit the right testers and prepare a relevant test scenario.
  • Get to know the prototype well so that you are prepared for anything.
  • Fail early, which means test early and often. Testing can be done at different stages of product development, from an on-paper prototype to a working product. It is better to use low- and medium-fidelity prototypes for RITE, as they can be updated quickly. With coded prototypes, iterations require more time and effort as they are likely to involve designers and developers. This means this is no longer RAPID testing. Also, the more advanced the design, the easier it is to get attached to it and become resistant to implementing changes.
  • Take declarations with a pinch of salt - people often say something because they feel that this is a proper thing to say.
  • Observe user behaviour and ask follow-up questions.
  • Involving your team will help you see different perspectives, which is valuable for the project. Teamwork plays an important role here. Consider including people responsible for different areas (devs, graphic designers, business). This way they can get to know the users of their products better. As a bonus, you will build relationships within your team and get better engagement and work dynamics.
  • Document the tests in real time. It is easy to get lost in the maze of changes and prototype versions.
Is it worth using iterative testing?

Is it worth it? Everyone chooses their hardcore ;)Testing - especially iterative testing - produces results, but requires agility, effort and commitment. Skipping tests means you are not sure whether your solution will be of use to customers.

Personally, I find test moderation an extremely rewarding and exciting experience that is full of surprises too. I appreciate the opportunity to get to know the audience, to observe how they act and think, what is important to them, and how they interact with the product we worked on for months. There are moments when we have to put our egos in our pockets, but that'swhat it's all about - being totally open to feedback. Working with the team to come up with fixes can be actually fun and a great opportunity to strengthen team bonds.

Is there anything I wish I had know when I started? Of course!

First off, verify your data synthesis tool beforehand. I was so excited about the upcoming tests that I brushed it off. However, in this case, going with the flow is not productive and I do not recommend it. Also, give yourself time to report. Synthesizing data on a sheet of paper is one thing. Presenting the results to the client is a different story. You do not want to overwhelm them with 50 slides that only create confusion.

Conducting the iterative tests has been a demanding, but very valuable experience. It reassured my belief that RITE tests are not a solution for every project and every brand. However, if they seem like a good fit for you the result will surely be worth it.

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Joanna Bałdyga

UX Designer




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