3 Tips for More Successful Prototype Testing

One of the best uses of limited development dollars is to usability test a prototype as early as possible.

Test too early in the design process — and participants may not fully understand what they’re looking at.

Test too late — and you likely will trash quite a bit of work (and money).

Here are 3 tips when prototype testing to ensure maximum return on investment:

1. Test the right level of fidelity

You want to usability test somewhere between “a bunch of doodles” and polished design.

Don’t wait for a 100% finished product or site to begin usability testing.

As soon as a concept has been validated as an awesome idea by your target audience, next create a prototype. It saves tons of money and cuts down on internal disagreements (and meetings!).

Answer key questions about the user experience ASAP:

  • Does the overall experience meet expectations?
  • Is wayfinding and navigation easy to use?
  • Is the content strategy right?
  • Is labeling intuitive and jargon-free?
  • Are CTAs clear?
  • Is the information hierarchy clear?
  • Are UI controls easily understood?

2. Use almost real (or real) copy

If there’s dummy text (also known as “Lorem Ipsum”) anywhere on the page — it’s not ready for usability testing.

Using “Lorem Ipsum” in headlines, calls-to-action, buttons, instructions, error messages, and other critical places will be extremely confusing and frustrating for most people.

Copy in the prototype doesn’t need to be the final copy, but the text should capture the essence of what the user will actually read.

For example, here’s real copy taken from Apple.com:

“In addition to the Genius Bar for hardware repairs, you have more immediate support options. Get your questions answered by an expert via phone, chat, email, or even Twitter. From setting up your device to recovering your Apple ID to replacing the screen, Apple Support has you covered.”

And here’s what a designer or developer might have written to use in the prototype (and is suitable for testing):

“Use Genius Bar when you need help with Apple products or other support needs. We can answer your questions by phone, chat, or email. We can help with questions such as retrieving your account information to replacing a cracked screen.”

Be careful with faux copy. Tone of voice can impact the test in unexpected ways. Unless it’s “on brand,” passive-aggressive, sarcastic, or error-laden copy can be off-putting and overshadow your research objectives.

3. Mock up a sample prototype

For some users, it can be beneficial to see an example of a well-known site at the same level of fidelity as your prototype (prior to seeing your prototype).

This extra step can help ensure participant focus on the right things (e.g., content, scrolling), rather than the lack of color or unfinished feel of the prototype.

Related Articles

What to Usability Test First
10 Mistakes to Avoid When Conducting a Usability Study
The 5-Step Process I Use to Plan & Conduct Usability Studies

Author: Kristine Remer

Kristine Remer is an independent UX researcher & strategist in Minneapolis. Connect @ https://twitter.com/kristineremer