How often should you do user testing?
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How often should you do user testing?

September 14, 2023

With so much to do and priorities to balance in each day, the question of how often should user testing be done always comes up. In fact, user testing is often skipped because there just isn't enough time to do one. In this post, we'll discuss the various factors that can help determine the frequency for user testing, and why they matter with the aim to help you answer the question.

The importance of user testing

Let's first make one point clear - user testing must be done irregardless of timing and frequency. This is because it helps you understand your intended user' behaviours, needs, and pain points and how they use your product to address them. It provides invaluable insights that can guide your decisions, validate assumptions, and ultimately improve the user experience. Neglecting user research can lead to costly mistakes, missed opportunities, and the development of products that don't resonate with your users.

What factors impact how often you need to do user testing?

Here are some considerations when thinking about how often you should do user testing. 

  1. The stage that you are in: Because user testing helps reduce risks for your product, how often you do it correlates directly with the stage of your product. The earlier you are, the higher risks, and thus the more tests you must run. However, in the early stages it might not be just testing, but also customer discovery interviews to validate who your users are and what pain-points they have. It's also a good idea to co-create some ideas about your solution in this stage. If you're looking for tips on how to run a session, read this post. As the product progresses, user testing frequency may decrease but should remain consistent to ensure ongoing alignment with user expectations as your products evolve.

  2. How much time and budget you have: User testing can take time especially if you don't yet have users, or if you have users but they're not responsive when you reach out for user testing inquiries. Some of the major platforms that exist for user testing can also be costly, which limits your ability to do more. We suggest securing a small budget on a monthly basis to spend, because that budget will go a very long way compared to the cost of mistakes that you could have avoided. A platform like Lightster also offers pay-what-you-can user testing, allowing you to do research more often an with more users without breaking the bank. 

  3. Product complexity: The complexity of your project matters. Highly complex projects with multiple user segments, intricate workflows, or innovative technology may demand more frequent research to mitigate risks and ensure a smooth user experience.

  4. User base: The nature of your user base matters. If your audience is constantly evolving or includes diverse user segments, more frequent research can help you adapt to changing needs and preferences.

  5. Competitive landscape: Keep an eye on your competitors. If your industry experiences rapid changes or intense competition, more frequent research can help you stay ahead and meet evolving customer demands.

  6. Regulatory requirements: In some industries, compliance with regulations and standards may necessitate regular user research to ensure your product or service meets legal requirements and user safety standards.

Common Cadences

Now that we've covered the factors influencing research frequency, let's explore some common cadences for user testing:

  1. Continuous user testing: This approach includes regular usability testing, feedback collection, and iterative design improvements with every development sprint which are typically weekly or bi-weekly. It's ideal for agile development environments and user-centric organizations.

  2. Product milestones: Align user research with project milestones. Conduct user testing at critical junctures, such as project kickoff, feature development, and pre-launch testing. This approach ensures that user testing is conducted when it can have the most significant impact on the project.

  3. Quarterly or bi-annual research: Some companies opt for a structured approach, conducting user testing on a quarterly or biannual basis. This allows for regular insights without overwhelming teams with constant user testing activities. The fallback is that the insights might arrive too late for decisions.

  4. Event-driven research: Conduct research when specific events or triggers occur, such as a drop in user engagement or a major update. Event-driven research helps you address immediate concerns and adapt to changing circumstances.

  5. A/B testing and analytics: In addition to traditional user research, consider implementing continuous A/B testing and monitoring user analytics. This approach can provide ongoing insights into user behavior and preferences.

The frequency at which you should conduct user testing isn't one-size-fits-all; it depends on various factors like project stage, budget, complexity, user base, and more. What's crucial is recognizing the importance of user research and integrating it into your design and development processes. Regularly seeking feedback and insights from your users is essential for creating products and services that stand the test of time and meet user expectations.

Ultimately, striking the right balance between user testing frequency and resources is key. Whether you opt for continuous user testing, milestone-based studies, or periodic assessments, the goal remains the same: to create user-centric solutions that deliver value and delight to your audience. Keep these factors in mind, adapt your research cadence as needed, and never stop listening to your users to ensure the success of your products and services.

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