Three types of users that can mess with your user tests

Rachel Wendte

Nov 19 · 3 min read

If you’re a UX designer, or anyone who works in the consumer space, you know that users can affect the future plans, improvements, and features in your experience.

To mitigate this, many of us turn to user testing to make our case. But as with any endeavor, there are those who seek to undercut you at every turn, and you need to be prepared.

Here are the three problematic testers you could encounter in your work, and how you can settle the score with each.

  1. The Winner

Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

This person wants to win your usability test. Regardless of your test script or your explicit instructions, all this person hears is, “Other people are doing this test too. If I want to be the best, I have to be the fastest.” This can skew your task analysis in any number of ways. Chief among them is that this tester’s primary goal is to beat the clock; not to see how user friendly your experience is. This mindset leads to gratuitous errors that could be avoided.

To combat this, encourage the individual to attempt a task at warp speed. In other words, give them permission to ignore your protocol and do what they think is best to achieve their ideal solution. If and when this inevitably fails, ask them which steps tripped them up the most to get their preferred outcome. This can be a streamlined way to assess user flows and eliminate unnecessary steps.

2. The Fixer

Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash

This person isn’t looking to do your tasks for completion. Instead, they are looking for ways to show you things your app/experience can’t do. Joke’s on them because we know that prototypes aren’t fully functional, but they are trying to undermine your authority by pointing out the pieces that aren’t clickable and don’t lead to something. It’s a cheap shot, but it’s a quick way to make you feel less than. We don’t need that! If you encounter a tester who is hellbent on pointing out which points of your prototype aren’t linked or functional, flip it. “What were you hoping clicking that area would do for you?” “What would you like to accomplish by that action?” “ Where would you expect that action to lead you?” With these kinds of questions, we are acknowledging the value of curiosity while also asking for motive. This is a surefire way to value the participant while also valuing our previous work.

3. The Detective

Photo by João Silas on Unsplash

The Detective is different from The Fixer in that they have no malicious intent. While The Fixer is looking for ways to trip you up, The Detective views prototypes as word searches or “what are the 7 differences between these two pictures” kind of situations. They put blinders on stuff that works and look for the things that don’t. They want you to succeed, and they consider it a mission to help you achieve your best MVP. Detectives should be cultivated, and shown appreciation. “I loved what you spotted in this page switch. Do you see anything else that can cause friction?” This kind of person wants to be useful, but they don’t want overstep. Encourage them to share their honest assessment of what they see. This will help ease many potential user errors, and create a better flow for everyone.

Happy testing!

Categorized as UX

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