Rapid iterative testing: pushing the focus onto solutions, not problems

by Foolproof

As a user experience practitioner, I obviously value the role iteration cycles play in the design process.

A previous Foolproof post described a Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE) process, ‘Development in days, not months’.

Building on this post, these are the primary reasons why this approach has become popular with many of our clients.

1. Gives an immediate sense for how the research impacts the design

When stakeholders join iterative sessions they get an immediate sense for how good user experience can affect customer behaviour. They don’t have to wait for endless change requests and reviews to see their product improving as this happens within hours. It’s a way of getting exposed to the value of user research, which is way more powerful than any report.

2. Improved communication within the project team

One of the most underestimated benefits of iterative testing and, in my opinion, of other ‘agile’ methodologies too, is that it forces different members of the team (product managers, developers, copywriters, product managers, etc) who often don’t spend too much time together to collaborate in solving problems. All participants get the (rare!) chance to share their point of view, and this speeds up decision making and problem resolution.

3. Reduced risk of design changes

Sometimes, what seems to be a brilliant solution ends up introducing another unexpected criticality into the system. Rapid iterative testing can significantly reduce this risk by testing changes to the design with a quick turnaround, often within the same timeline required by ‘standard’ user research.

4. Shifts the focus from the problem to the solution

A common issue with many user research programmes is that while effort is made to uncover user experience problems, concrete actions to solve them are often delayed to a following phase. With RITE, both researchers and stakeholders know that spotting issues is only part of the job and that the success comes from how quickly the design can be adapted and evolved. It’s a significant change of perspective that makes each session more engaging for the team and ultimately more valuable for the client.

When testing with more than six respondents or research takes place on more than one day I always recommend introducing some form of iteration between sessions. It adds a small amount of time and cost in the short-term but maintains the momentum in design, and bakes the benefits of each day’s learning into the project.

If you would like more information on the RITE method here are some links. Feel free to post your thoughts or experiences below.

Author: Andrea Agueci

What do you think?