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User Testing: High Touch or No Touch? (Part 2)

As I mentioned in my previous post, we do primarily two kinds of usability testing here at Fell Swoop:

  • High Touch – This is the traditional method of usability testing. It involves sitting down with the user and talking with them as they perform a set of tasks.
  • No Touch – This method is a little different. It involves giving the user a set of tasks to work through on their own, then watching a video of it.

While “high touch” often uncovers deeper insights, it also takes longer and costs more. The “no touch” approach can yield results in a matter of hours instead of days. It’s also cheaper because it doesn’t require a physical space, and participants are paid less for shorter sessions.

Intrigued? Let’s take a look at the process for conducting a typical “no touch” user test.

  • Step 1: We create an online prototype of the design to be tested.
    This prototype can be as simple as a series of PNGs, a clickable PDF, or a basic HTML website. We post the prototype at a private URL and take it down after the test is over.
  • Step 2: We recruit three to five participants based on a handful of basic parameters.
    Age, income, education, and level of technical savvy are all things we can define. Getting more specific is possible but requires more time. The beauty of “no touch” is its speed, so a more general user profile is typically preferred.
  • Step 3: We create three to five tasks for participants to complete while using the online prototype.
    During the sessions, these tasks are displayed in the context of the prototype itself. Participants see each task above the section or page to which it refers.
  • Step 4: Participants record themselves completing the tasks using the prototype.
    Sessions last only about 20 minutes and don’t involve a facilitator. Participants do the sessions wherever they want using their own computer or mobile device. Typically, the sessions are completed on the same day, sometimes mere minutes after we post the prototype and tasks.
  • Step 5: We review recordings of the sessions and put together a simple list of findings.
    We analyze what participants say and do while using the prototype. Obviously, we can’t probe the users for additional insights, but we can always run a follow up test with different participants to test new issues or opportunities.

The best thing about the “no touch” approach is it allows us to test early and often since the whole process can be completed within a day. This means more user feedback can be incorporated into a design, making it that much easier to use.

The traditional “high touch” method of user testing can’t be forgotten, however, because it results in the deepest insights. Therefore, a perfect user centered design project would likely include a mix of both “no touch” and “high touch” user testing. Multiple rounds of “no touch” and one or two rounds of “high touch” would be ideal. This is uncommon now, but we bet it will become the norm soon.