Usability Testing: How to Get Feedback on Your Software

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Feedback is the cornerstone to gaining and keeping satisfied software customers. It’s nice to think your software is easy to use and delivers what everyone needs, but is it? Unless you work alongside those who actually use the software on a daily basis, how do you know you’re hitting the mark?

The best time to begin usability testing is while the app is still being created and prototyped. The collected feedback allows you to address errors and problems before the software is released. It is always financially advantageous to correct issues early in the development cycle instead of later.

You may know all the features and options about your software, but in this fast-paced world, users don’t often take the time to look around for those features. If they can’t figure out how to do something in a few clicks, they’ll find something else that works. A user who is frustrated enough is a user who leaves. So, how do you get people to communicate that you’re delivering what they need, or if something needs to be improved?

The answer is usability testing.

Usability testing is a way for you to gather information from people who use your software. For best results, you want to find “virgin” users – those who have never seen your software before – and ask them to perform a series of tasks. It’s critical not to tell the users how to perform those specific tasks because you want to observe them, take notes, and get their feedback. 

In-person feedback 

Comments from people actively using your software can give you an incredible depth of information on your product. Constructive user feedback can be obtained individually or from a group or team of users. 

When working with individuals, being able to see the users’ body language and facial expressions gives you as much or more information than knowing if they completed the tasks successfully. Were they frustrated? Did they look confused? Were they comfortable moving from one screen to the next while using the software?

If you’re able to watch a person while he’s testing your software, ask him to share what he’s thinking out loud. Learning his thought process as he works to complete a task gives you insight on ways to make that task simpler or more streamlined.

If there’s an established team or group of users already using the software then take advantage of this situation. The beauty of having a group of people use your software is that you can then gather a tremendous amount of feedback at once, allowing you to spot trends and discover user pain points.

In-app feedback

Comments from within the application people can be obtained from boxes, polls, or automation by way of software project telemetry. 

An option for capturing feedback within the software is to provide a form or link at the bottom of each screen. A simple text box to answer the question “Do you have a concern or comment about this page?” or a link to a web page that collects the responses can work well for capturing software bugs, page glitches, and other issues the user may encounter.

You can also consider giving the user frequent surveys. Just be aware that although surveys deliver quick information, they can sometimes limit the user’s ability to give in-depth feedback.

Another form of collecting feedback is through software project telemetry, where an automated program collects metrics unobtrusively while the software is being used. This allows you to collect historical data and compare it to current and future projects. 

It’s your end users who you need to ultimately satisfy, so obtaining and listening to valid and constructive user feedback from those who actually use the product should always be considered one of your highest priorities. 

What are some of your best tips for collecting user feedback during your software development cycle?

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Comments

Anna Lind's picture

This is a great article, thanks Wendy! We have used some of the means of getting customer feedback you described here, and some that aren't mentioned. One I would add is uninstall surveys - users who choose to uninstall an application are asked why they are uninstalling. Even though we include a SKIP button, most users still answer this question and their answers provide a wealth of information that can help improve the program.

Lauren Dankiewicz (Intel)'s picture

Anna, thanks for your comment and additional suggestion. That is a great idea to gather feedback!