User testing without users 

User-testing is crucial to building and launching new products or features. When we are working with product teams, users inform and validate most of our decisions. But sometimes users aren't available to test. So, how do you conduct user testing without users?

Try starting with internal user testing. Since the product team is creating features for their users, they should think like their users.

Storytime 📖

We were designing the user interface with a cybersecurity startup. While most weeks we received feedback while testing with users, there was a period where we couldn't get testers. 

This was the perfect time to implement internal user testing.

Internal Testing

At the start of the project, we created personas to represent their expected users. 

example persona

We asked each team member to choose the persona they felt they knew the best. They were instructed to pretend to use their app for the first time. 

Each team member submitted a screencast of them testing the mockups from their persona's perspective.

We got amazing feedback! The team saw the application from an entirely new perspective and provided feedback on areas their persona would have been confused. 

Feedback we received 

  • "Darius the Developer would be really confused right here. He is used to [these applications] and this would be foreign to him."
  • "Carl the CISO really doesn't care to get in the weeds here. We will probably skip this view and look for the dashboard info."
  • "Angela the AppSec will love this because she has a background in [this] and experience with [this application]

Testing from the perspective of your user breaks your mind free of how you usually think. Everything considered obvious or unnecessary to the product team was surfaced. We found some of those "obvious" things were not shared concepts throughout the team.

The product team absolutely loved the exercise. 

You might be asking yourself, "How do I internally user test?"

Here are the six steps to internal testing.

  1. Review your persona and consider their objectives
    If you haven’t created a persona,
    download Brainiac and create one.
  1. Set a timer for 10 minutes and have the prototype (or whatever you’re testing with) pulled up.
  2. Record your screen and audio as you test. While you test, say aloud what you are thinking.
  3. Test. Click through the app pretending you are the persona using it for the first time. 
  4. Provide feedback. Point out anything that might be confusing or irrelevant to your persona.
    See the questions below on how to provide feedback during and after testing. 
  5. Share your screen recording with the team and discuss.

What to address while testing

While you’re testing…

  1. What is my persona’s main objective after creating an account?
  2. What applications would your persona be familiar with?
  3. Does their past experience (like jobs or applications) help them figure out what is going on?

Right after testing…  

  1. What other things would my persona want to do?
  2. What will my persona rarely or never do?
  3. Answer one last question, “In the app’s current state, how likely will your persona be to understand how to do everything they need to in the app?” 

How early in the process are you user testing?

If you’re a cybersecurity company tired of wasting engineering hours on features no one wants, we’d love to talk with you.

Schedule a free strategy call with our founder William to ask questions about user testing, product design, or his favorite National Park.

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