July 18, 2022

Let’s Talk About… User Testing

Aileen Wong

SVP, Experience Design

“What is user testing?” We hear it all the time. Usually followed by, “We don’t have time to test.” However, we believe that data-driven decisions have an untapped potential to improve digital experiences. In the following article, our head of UX explains what user testing is and why you should absolutely be doing it.

At Genuine, we partner with our clients to make data-driven decisions that improve digital experiences. From initial discovery through development and launch, we utilize a range of quantitative and qualitative inputs, test-and-learn strategies, and our own knowledge and experience to develop solutions that lead to conversion and success that can be measured. Our phased approach is iterative by design and rooted in data.


User testing is one of the most important aspects of our research process because we value a user-centric approach. The data and insights gathered from user testing validate and inform our recommendations throughout the project lifecycle.


What is user testing?

At the most basic level, user testing is a research tool used in the design process to evaluate a product, feature, or prototype with real users. The universe of user research methods is quite large but can be categorized by the different data they commonly provide: Quantitative, Qualitative, or mixed. 

  • Quantitative UX research methods are best for benchmarking, prioritization, and forecasting.
  • Qualitative research methods are best for modeling user experiences and inspiring ideas.
  • Mixed UX research can deliver both quant and qual data.


When should you test? Always!

Throughout the lifecycle of our projects, there are different assets that can be tested and offer unique insights that inform and validate proposed solutions. For example, during the early Discovery phase testing the current live site can help uncover how the site is performing to provide a baseline to measure future success. The categorization and labels of a site structure can be tested to inform the proposed sitemap. During the Define & Design phases, wireframes and visual designs can be tested with real users to assess users’ understanding and expectations for the flow, functionality, and content. After a website launches, testing can guide optimizations, measure success, and provide further insight into feature or messaging options.



Iterative testing is ideal. Test early and often!



Landscape of User Research Methods

Now that we’ve shown how testing can help at every stage of a project, let’s take a deeper look at the different methods we use, why we use that methodology, and some of the tools leveraged to make it happen.


Card Sorting

Card sorting is ideal when you need to uncover users’ mental models for better information architecture. A card sorting test can be moderated or unmoderated, but always tasks users to organize information into logical groups. There are three types of card sorting tests: Open, Closed, and Image.

  • Open means the users are asked to not only group cards but also label the categories. 
  • Closed is when the categories are established and you ask users to only sort the cards.
  • Image card sorts use images to see products that need sorting.

When to do it

  • Inform a sitemap or navigation recommendations, inform taxonomy, and groupings of large amounts of data.

  • Most useful when you’ve got the information you need to organize, but you’re just not sure exactly how to organize it.

  • Discover how people conceptualize, group, and label ideas in order to confidently and easily optimize content structure.

Tools to use

  • Optimal Sort, UserTesting.com, for moderated or unmoderated testing

  • Index cards, stickies, sharpie for in-person, moderated ‘old school’ testing


Tree Testing

Tree Testing evaluates the findability of topics on a website based on text labels and categorization, without visual design. We provide participants with different scenarios and ask them to dive deeper into hypothetical navigation to better understand pain points or confusion in finding information.

When to do it

  • Whether building a new website or improving an existing website, get insights to build an intuitive information architecture (organization and labeling).

  • Validate and inform the sitemap before implementation.

Tools to use

  • TreeJack, UserTesting.com for unmoderated testing 

  • Leverage impressive charts and graphs to supplement findings


First-Click Testing

First-click testing is helpful in evaluating a website by understanding what users are most inclined to click on an interface to complete their intended task. The test is administered online, and involves tasks associated with visual assets, wherein users are asked to complete the task by documenting where they would first click within the website visual.

When to do it

  • First-click testing can give the project team direct input on the effectiveness of site structure, layout, information architecture, and design.

  • This technique can be used to examine pain points with the current live site or inform wireframes, prototypes, or visual designs.

Tools to use

  • Chalkmark for unmoderated, remote first-click testing


Usability Testing

Usability testing is a method where we observe real people as they engage with products, designs, apps, concepts, or brands. Generally, participants are asked to perform tasks, using one or more specific interfaces and a facilitator observes the participants’ behavior and verbal responses as they move through the test. Depending on the circumstances such as timing, participant geography, or test complexity, moderated or unmoderated testing will be appropriate. Moderated usability testing involves a facilitator observing the participants in real-time. The unmoderated test happens asynchronously and relies on a recording of the participant talking through and interacting with the test.

When to do it

  • Uncover problems in current sites, and designs in the Discovery phase.

  • Inform opportunities and validate wireframe or design recommendations.

  • Learn about users' behavior or preferences at any stage.

Tools to use

  • UserTesting.com for remote moderated or unmoderated testing

  • Live sites, clickable prototypes, wireframes, or designs

  • Airtable for aggregate data analysis


Heat Mapping

Heatmaps visually represent where users click, move, and scroll on your site. A heatmap is a graphical representation of data where values are depicted by color. The most popular (hot) and unpopular (cold) elements of a site’s web page content use colors on a scale from red to blue.

When to do it

  • Discover what attracts attention and learn exactly where users stop scrolling and leave.

  • Analyze behavior pre- & post-launch to identify opportunities before launch and measure success after a release is made.

  • Compare desktop, tablet, and mobile to learn user behavior changes depending on the device being used.

Tools to use

  • Hotjar, Google Analytics

  • Live web pages


A/B Testing

A/B testing compares two versions of a single variable to determine which is more effective. Also known as bucket testing or split testing that runs controlled experiments wherein two or more versions of a variable (web page, component) are shown to different segments of website visitors at the same time to determine which version leaves the maximum impact and drive business metrics. ‘A’ refers to ‘control’ or the original testing variable, and ‘B’ refers to ‘variation’ or a new version of the original testing variable.

When to do it

  • Test different recommendations post-launch to align differing opinions (when there is a hypothesis for improvement but uncertainty in results).
  • Optimize existing sites to make targeted improvements without time bias.
  • Collect conclusive results with statistical significance when there is time (depends on traffic and number of variations etc.)

Tools to use

  • Google Optimize



Finally, why should you test?

Designers and clients (usually) are not users, no matter how much we try to put ourselves in the users’ shoes. Gathering information from real users can help us to do several important things:

  • Mitigate risk for user errors
  • Help prioritize the backlog
  • Decrease support and development costs by catching the problems earlier
  • Save time and money in the long term

In essence, user testing helps us verify that the design decisions made align with the user’s expectations and identify issues early in the design process before development, when it is easier, quicker and less expensive to make changes. This results in a truly user-centered design, which makes users happier and therefore, you too! 


Do you have a project that can benefit from user testing? Let’s talk.