How to evaluate the design of your interactive map? - Part 1: User testing

10 may 2024

User testing: why, who, what and how?

Imagine you are working on the design of a map application and you think you know what your users want and need. You finish the design and send it off to the development team. After a couple of development iterations you launch your new map and hope it will be well received. But what if it is not?

Even the most brilliant designers don’t know everything. In this scenario, learning about the needs and desires of your users only happens in the form of bugs and user complaints… Or even worse: it manifests as no one using your new map.

What if there was a way to fast forward to the interesting part and kickstart the learning process? 

Invest time to test your idea with real (potential) users and iterate on your idea before building it. Why? This will save time and costs making changes after launch and gives you unique insight about your design idea upfront. For more context check out The Design Sprint book.

But user testing also takes a lot of time, no? Not necessarily. The magic number of users to test is five. Jakob Nielsen did an enormous amount of user testing and recorded the number of discovered issues (find more info in this article). He discovered that testing with five users will uncover 85% of usability problems. So talking to five (potential new) users will give you a good overview of the big patterns and issues.

So who should you test with? Focus on your target audience. If possible contact people from the different user groups you defined before (see this blogpost for more information on how to do this). For example if you target GIS users and high school teachers it is important to test the map with both, as they will have different levels of GIS skills (and needs). 

Another thing to consider: what to test? Think about the questions you want to solve beforehand. Which aspects of your idea are you not entirely sure of? What questions do you still have? Focus on this in the design of your user tests. This is the moment to ask your users!

Finally decide on how you are going to test your idea. User testing can be done in multiple ways:

  • Interview users and simply ask them questions concerning your idea.
  • Show users a sketch or wireframe and ask for feedback (low fidelity prototype).
  • Let users interact with an interactive high fidelity prototype and ask for feedback.

Visualising your idea by means of a prototype will often result in more concrete feedback. The more advanced your prototype though, the more work it will take to create. Additionally, the more time and effort invested in a prototype, the more attached you will get to it (and the more hesitant to make changes). For the testers it is also important that they can get a realistic idea of your solution and can give good feedback based on their understanding. To make a decision on the level of complexity of your prototype, take the following into account:

  • If you have many ideas and don't know which one to work further on: go with sketches or wireframes.
  • If you want to validate a more mature idea: develop a high fidelity prototype.
  • If you want to validate UX and UI choices: consider an interactive high fidelity prototype and witness how people use your solution.

Keep an eye on our blog! In the next item of this series, we will explain in different steps how to arrive at a high fidelity interactive prototype in Figma.

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