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User Testing: High Touch or No Touch?

There are many flavors of usability testing. At Fell Swoop, we have two favorites:

  • 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.

Each method has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the best things about “high touch” has to do with uncovering motivations. When the user does something interesting, we can ask them why they did it. With “no touch,” motivations can remain hidden unless users are good at thinking aloud.

Below is an example of how “high touch” usability testing can pay off in the form of user behavior insights.

I once redesigned a web app for a car sharing company. The app allowed customers to reserve cars. It essentially asked them when they wanted to have the car, then showed them which cars were available. During user testing, we noticed an interesting behavior. Users wanted to know which cars were available for their trip, but they often picked cars that were available after their trip. Probing on this behavior revealed the reason. Customers had a strong aversion to inconveniencing other customers. They wanted to choose times least likely to inconvenience others if they had to return the car late.

After learning this, we optimized the design to make it easier to see availability after the requested trip times. Had we gone with a “no touch” approach, we may not have known why users did what they did. This is the beauty of the “high touch” approach. Despite being more time consuming and costly, it can result in better designs and happier customers.

In my next post I’ll describe our experience with the “no touch” method of usability testing and tell you why we think it’s perfect for some situations.