User testing for disruptive products

User testing is an incredibly valuable tool to assess and insure solid UX, and a fundamentally necessary step in any product development process - especially so for digital products like apps, interfaces or HMIs. When done correctly, it can bring about innovations that feel radically new and naturally intuitive at once - the type that surprises and thrills users, and distinguishes products that disrupt industries.

But when used improperly, it carries the risk of transferring responsibility from the product development team to the anonymous user. Testing is essential, but responsibility cannot be outsourced. However armed with user feedback, it will always have to be the development team to sculpt a working product innovation.

How to user-test right?

Most user testings approaches in UX/UI design rely on "webshop science": proven processes to test user onboarding, conversions, etc. These crucial interactions and basic metrics are often carried out through A/B test setups. But these factors may fall short of adequately representing the wide range of touchpoints a user has with more interactive and more sophisticated products.

Smart devices linked to an app, HMIs or medical applications have a very different interaction pattern from, say, an online shop. Hence, many commonplace testing truths prove insufficient at this level.

"User testing shouldn't be the first time the development team gets a reality check."

When treated as a one-size-fits-all solution - that UX and design decisions can supposedly be relegated to - user testing may even become an excuse for not taking strong, disruptive entrepreneurial decisions. Also, testing shouldn't be the first time the development team gets a user-side reality check. This should happen way before the first prototypes - actually, before development even starts.
Read more about user testing in these upcoming posts:

  1. Know your users! User groups are constantly evolving.
  2. Quantity or Quality? User testing vs. Expert Reviews.
  3. Conclusions - an Entrepreneurial Task.

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About the author: Heinrich Lentz is the founder of Antimatter, a physical / digital product design agency in Vienna/Austria, and functions as its design director. Previously he has been working in product and ux/ui design for agencies in Austria and Spain and lecturing at IED Barcelona.

This 4-part series was originally published by Heinrich Lentz as a single article on LinkedIn in October 2018.