UX Research & User Testing

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

4 hours, 49 minutes CC
UX Research & User Testing

Course Description

Improve the UX of your web apps using feedback from real users. Learn techniques for audience segmentation, gathering data, and running surveys and interviews. Use tools like empathy mapping, customer journey mapping, and top tasks analysis to identify the most important things to focus on to improve your apps. You'll learn to build the features that your users actually want!

This course and others like it are available as part of our Frontend Masters video subscription.


Course Details

Published: May 28, 2024

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Table of Contents


Section Duration: 6 minutes
  • Introduction
    Paul introduces the topic of user research and user testing. He explains that the purpose of the workshop is to help participants understand that they can do more user research and testing than they think, even with limited resources. he shares their experience in the field and discusses the principles of lean user research and testing. He also outline the different areas where user research and testing can be incorporated into projects. he emphasizes the importance of starting small and doing something, rather than doing nothing at all.

Principles of User Research & Testing

Section Duration: 52 minutes
  • The Case for User Testing
    Paul discusses the case for user research and testing. He explains the benefits of conducting user research and testing for individuals, such as providing expertise, avoiding confrontation, and avoiding criticism. He also discusses the organizational benefits, such as risk management, accessibility, market fit, and faster time to market. He emphasizes the importance of tailoring the message to different stakeholders and proving the value of user research and testing over time.
  • Getting Access to Customers
    Paul addresses common objections and resistance to change when it comes to user research and testing. He discusses strategies for overcoming objections such as lack of access to the audience, limited sample size, biased results, and concerns about disruption and time constraints. He also provides practical tips and approaches to address these objections and emphasizes the importance of being resourceful and adaptable in conducting user research.
  • Testing Fast & Eliminating Excuses
    Paul emphasizes the importance of finding opportunities to conduct usability testing and user research throughout a project, rather than saving it all for later. He discusses various quick and cost-effective testing methods, such as first click tests, five-second tests, and eye tracking simulations. He also shares strategies for fitting testing into natural breaks in projects and manufacturing excuses to incorporate user research. He stresses the importance of hiding the cost of testing and emphasize that doing something is better than doing nothing.
  • Answering Unanswered Questions
    Paul discusses the importance of conducting user research and testing at the appropriate moments in a project. He emphasizes the need to have a clear purpose and specific questions in mind when conducting research, rather than doing it for the sake of it. He also highlights the value of testing early and often, as it is cheaper, faster, and easier to fix problems at earlier stages of the project. He provides examples of the types of questions that can be answered through testing during different phases of a project.
  • User Testing Audience & Principles
    Paul discusses the process of finding research participants for usability testing. He emphasizes that testing with six people is sufficient to catch a majority of problems in the application, and that usability testing can be done with anyone who has comparable ability. He also provides recommendations for tools that can be used for usability testing, including Hotjar, Microsoft Clarity, and various free tools. He concludes by encouraging learners to start incorporating usability testing into their work without waiting for permission or additional budget.

Upfront User Research & Prioritization

Section Duration: 38 minutes
  • Upfront User Research & Prioritization
    Paul discusses the importance of upfront research in a project and how to approach it. He explains that upfront research helps to avoid assumptions and misunderstandings, prevent disagreements among stakeholders, and ensure a solution that is aligned with user needs and the overall context. He also provides tips on conducting lightweight upfront research, such as consolidating existing research and information, running workshops, and conducting research as questions emerge. Additionally, Paul discusses the process of identifying and prioritizing target audiences based on business alignment, user impact, needs, growth potential, and feasibility.
  • Segmenting Audience & Gathering Data
    Paul discusses the importance of segmenting your audience in UX design and how to do it effectively. He explains that traditional ways of segmenting audiences, such as demographics, may not work well in UX. Instead, he suggests segmenting based on questions, tasks, and needs. He also provides examples and tips on understanding user needs and gathering relevant information through existing research, customer support staff, site analytics, social media, and more.
  • Running Surveys
    Paul discusses the use of surveys for gathering information and conducting user research. He emphasizes the importance of keeping surveys short, asking actionable questions, and favoring closed questions over open-ended ones. He also mentions potential barriers to surveying, such as data protection and survey fatigue, and provide tips for overcoming these challenges.
  • Running Interviews
    Paul discusses the importance of conducting user interviews and provides advice on how to run them effectively. He emphasizes the value of building rapport with participants, listening more than talking, and asking follow-up questions. He also suggests collecting quotes and creating a highlights reel or horror video to effectively communicate user feedback to stakeholders. He mentions different tools that can be used for conducting interviews and reassure learners that there is no right or wrong way to conduct interviews.


Section Duration: 29 minutes
  • Empathy & Customer Journey Mapping
    Paul explains the concept of empathy mapping and customer journey mapping. He describes how empathy maps are similar to personas but provide a different perspective on user experience. He also discusses the benefits of journey mapping, such as providing context, identifying failings, and planning projects. He also provides examples and tips for conducting workshops and creating journey maps. he acknowledges that journey mapping can be time-consuming and may not always be feasible, so they suggest alternative approaches like empathy mapping or upfront testing.
  • Testing Assumptions with Usability Testing
    Paul discusses the importance of upfront testing in the design process. He explains that upfront testing helps to validate assumptions, identify strengths and weaknesses, and understand user needs. He also discusses different methods of testing, such as usability testing and monitoring existing data, and emphasizes the importance of involving stakeholders and prioritizing user-centric thinking in decision-making.

Information Architecture

Section Duration: 55 minutes
  • Working with Information Architecture
    Paul discusses the opportunities for user research and testing during the information architecture stage of a project. He introduces the concept of top tasks, which involves identifying the most critical tasks that users want to complete on a website or app. He also mentions the process of top task analysis, but acknowledges that it can be time-consuming and offers alternative methods for identifying top tasks.
  • Top Task Analysis Lite
    Paul introduces the concept of "top task analysis light" as a faster and easier alternative to traditional top task analysis. He explains the steps involved in conducting a top task analysis, including gathering a list of potential tasks, creating a survey using a tool like PollUnit, collecting user votes and suggestions, and cleaning up the results. The importance of focusing on top tasks and using them to establish top-level navigation in information architecture is also discussed in this segment.
  • Card Sorting to Top-Level Navigation
    Paul discusses how card sorting can be used to allow users to organize information in a way that makes sense to them, and they provide an example of an open card sort. He also shares tips for making decisions about top-level navigation, such as keeping options to a minimum, using clear and distinct labels, and not fearing clicks.
  • Expanding Your Information Architecture
    Paul discusses the process of expanding the information architecture by integrating more tasks and accommodating subsections. He explains how to conduct a closed card sort to gather user input on task categorization and how to analyze the results using an agreement score. He also provides guidance on organizing tasks into subsections and suggests using ChatGPT to help with the process.
  • Testing Your Information Architecture
    Paul explains the importance of testing the information architecture and introduces tree testing as a method to validate the structure. There are three types of content to test: low agreement score, not sure category, and top tasks buried in subsections. He also addresses potential problems and explains how to interpret the results, focusing on success score, directness, and time taken to complete tasks.

Testing Design Concepts

Section Duration: 37 minutes
  • Testing Your Design Concepts
    Paul discusses the importance of testing design concepts and mockups. He explains that testing can lead to a better product, resolve disagreements, ensure momentum, and save money. He also introduces different types of tests, such as testing comprehension and aesthetics, and suggests using tools like Lyssna for conducting these tests.
  • Testing User Comprehension
    Paul discusses the concept of the "eight-second test," also known as the "five-second test," to assess the effectiveness of visual communication on a webpage. The test involves showing a design concept to a user for eight seconds and then asking them to recall specific details or their first impression. He explains how to set up and run the test, and highlights the benefits of quick and easy feedback it provides.
  • Testing Aesthetics
    Paul discusses the importance of testing aesthetics in design projects and explains that testing with users helps ensure a compelling design and reduces arguments. He also provides two options for testing aesthetics: preference tests and semantic differential surveys.
  • Testing Usability
    Paul discusses the importance of testing usability on mock-ups and how it can address stakeholder concerns and catch issues early. He introduces different options for testing usability, including the "five-second" test and the "first click" test. He also mentions the possibility of using eye-tracking tools, such as RealEye or eye-tracking simulation software, to gain insights into where people will look at a design.
  • Testing Conclusion
    Paul discusses the importance of testing early in the design process and emphasizes the need for real content rather than placeholder text like lorem ipsum. He explains how to create draft content by extracting questions and bullet points from the information architecture and using tools like ChatGPT and Hemingway to generate website content. He also shares his approach to presenting design progress to clients, focusing on a continuous feedback loop rather than a traditional sign-off process.

Testing Prototypes

Section Duration: 56 minutes
  • Testing Prototypes
    Paul discusses the importance of prototyping and the opportunities for testing that come with it. He explains the benefits of realistic and interactive prototypes and discusses the options for usability testing, including facilitated and un-facilitated testing. He also explores the pros and cons of remote testing versus in-person testing, and highlights the importance of testing specific aspects of the prototype, such as navigation, learnability, efficiency, and satisfaction.
  • Preparation for Usability Testing
    Paul discusses preparation and scheduling for conducting usability testing, including. He covers topics such as the necessary equipment and environment for in-person testing, the importance of screen recording apps, and how to plan tasks and scenarios for testing. He also provides tips for facilitating the sessions, including making participants feel comfortable, emphasizing that the site is being tested and not the participant, and asking for permission to record the sessions.
  • Running Usability Testing
    Paul discusses the process of conducting both facilitated and unfacilitated usability testing. He provides tips for facilitating in-person testing, such as asking about participants' expectations, prompting them to talk, and allowing them to struggle. He also explains how to set up and conduct unfacilitated testing using tools like Lookback, highlighting the benefits of obtaining unbiased and unfiltered feedback.
  • Working with the Results
    Paul discusses the importance of using the results of usability testing and how to prioritize the issues that arise from the testing. He also emphasizes the impact that usability testing can have on culture and stakeholders, and provides strategies for encouraging attendance and engagement in usability testing sessions. He also touches on the dynamic of observers during usability testing and how to manage expectations when refactoring or remaking an existing product.
  • Testing Existing Websites or Apps
    Paul discusses the importance of post-launch testing and iteration for websites and apps. He explains that the best opportunity to improve an application or website is after it has gone live, as this is when you can observe real user behavior at scale. He also outlines the process of post-launch optimization, which involves identifying problems, diagnosing them, proposing solutions, testing those solutions, and launching the best option.
  • Identifying Points of Friction
    Paul walks through the process of identifying and resolving issues on problem pages to improve the user experience. He explains how to use analytics to identify problem pages through exit rates, bounce rates, rage clicks, dead clicks, excessive scrolling, and quickbacks. He also explains how to narrow down the exact issue by analyzing heat maps, session recordings, and utilizing A/B testing to test potential solutions on problem pages.
  • Testing Larger Changes
    Paul discusses the different tools available for A-B testing and their pros and cons. He mentions tools like Convert, Crazy Egg, and Visual Website Optimizer, highlighting their features and costs. He also explains when it might be more appropriate to use prototyping instead of A-B testing, particularly for complex interactions or costly changes.

Wrapping Up

Section Duration: 13 minutes
  • Wrapping Up
    Paul wraps up the workshop by summarizing the topics covered, emphasizing the importance of ongoing testing and iteration, and encouraging participants to start implementing even small testing efforts. He also addresses a question about translating testing efforts into monetary value and discusses the value of feedback surveys in different contexts.

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