UX Research & User Testing

Testing Aesthetics

Paul Boag

Paul Boag

UX Research & User Testing

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The "Testing Aesthetics" Lesson is part of the full, UX Research & User Testing course featured in this preview video. Here's what you'd learn in this lesson:

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.


Transcript from the "Testing Aesthetics" Lesson

>> So that's the kind of comprehension side of things. But let's talk about aesthetics, because this is where the proverbial poop hits the fan in a lot of projects, because everybody has different ideas about what makes good aesthetic design. So bringing some objectivity to this is so valuable, right?

And this works a treat, what I'm gonna show you. So, why don't we want to test aesthetics? Well, it's gonna lead to a better design. Testing a design with users ensures the design is compelling as possible for that audience. It's gonna lead to [LAUGH] way fewer arguments, which is my primary reason for doing it if I want to be honest with you.

And then also it's more objective. So stakeholders preferences should not define the design direction, but so often does. So testing provides some objectivity. So in this case, the rules around who we test with are slightly different. You can't just use friends and family here, and this is the only drawback with this approach, that you do need to use a real audience here or as close to a real audience as you can possibly get, right, because design is so subjective.

So use your primary audience, if you possibly can. It's crucial that you use the actual people and you take into account because people have different design preferences based on their background. Also, I would try and go for more numbers here, right? So where the other one you could J test six people and you'd be in a fairly good position.

Here Ideally you wanna get it out to as many people as possible, right? And that's because you wanna avoid statistical anomalies of some guy who's got a particular problem with a particular color or whatever, and it throws everything out. The more people you have, that some guy is then swamped in the masses.

So, it's a bit trickier to do, it's the kinda thing you wanna send out as an email to your target audience, existing customer base, something like that, ideally. So, what you wanna do? Yeah, that's your biggest problem there. Beyond that, everything is really easy to do. First of all, at the beginning of the project, before you do the mockup or the style tile or whatever it is we're gonna be testing with, you'll wanna get your stakeholders to agree the words they want the design to communicate, right?

No more of this, well it doesn't wow me, because that's absolutely vague and doesn't help in any way, shape, or form. You want them to agree, we want the design to be progressive, liberal,, hippieish, whatever, right? Whatever words they want, they need to express those words up front.

Now, actually, there's an excellent tool, if you do a lot of brand work, called brand deck, which is brilliant for helping to determine these tools, these words. So basically, people can pick from a whole load of different words and they can say what they are and what they're not and that kinda thing.

So once you've agreed those words, those words are gold dust, because you have now got your stakeholder to commit to what they want to take from the design, right? So, how then do we do it? Well, we've got a couple of options of how we test this. It's very much up to you.

Personal preference, how you're feeling that day, time of the year, whatever rocks your boat. But option number one is a preference test, this is the simplest and most obvious. Preference test is an excellent way of seeing how your design resonates with an audience. Now, this obviously works well if you've got multiple options, right?

Maybe you've done multiple style tiles or multiple mood boards, but it also works with comparing yourself with the competition, right? Yeah, it's really good to be able to compare yourself with the competition because the big thing is, the design doesn't look as good as X. They do it really well, that comes up a lot.

So, a preference test can help there. So, you can either test different versions of your style title or mood board, or you can test against the competition. And it's so simple to run a game, right? What you do as you upload your two designs, maybe your design and the competitions, or maybe multiple style tiles or whatever, you can have as many as you want, within reason.

And then you ask them, which of these designs is most hippieish, right? On which of these designs is most liberal, which design is most doer, right? So, you're getting people to basically confirm or deny that your brand words work. So basically, they get a screen like this. Which of the following do you most associate with the words dependable, accomplished, and responsive?

If, right, they just select, and then you end up with results that are like that, right? Okay, version three it is, pish push posh, job done. No more debate, no more argument. Stare in black and white lit. Yeah, go for it.
>> And did they do that for mobile too?

Yeah, you can do, yeah, if that doesn't appeal to you, right? Let's mix it up every once tomorrow, we can do. Now, this one I like, cuz of its name, right? It's called a semantic differential survey. Now, it's really simple, but damn does that sound complicated, right? That's the kind of thing that impresses a client or stakeholder.

Yes, I think we need to do a semantic differential survey. So, you get brownie points just by naming it. So in this one, what we do, is we basically, do this, right? On a scale from formal to casual, right? Let's say casual is the brand keyword. On a scale of formal to casual, how would you describe this design, right?

Is it more or less? And there are various versions you could do. So another version is, which of the following words best describes your website, this website? And they can select whichever words that one. And the great thing is, common thing you'll get back from stakeholders is. Well, I think the design is a bit boring.

All right, let's put the word boring in, and see if anyone else selects that, right? Or it's only all a bit gray? All right, let's put the word gray in, see if anyone selects that. So, you can actually use it as a way of responding to stakeholders and feedback that you're getting internally as well.

Works really well, really quick to do. Get results back less than an hour. Shut up those stakeholders, right? Brilliant.

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