Author: Qian Si Ying

Experienced designers can do a lot — create a beautiful visual of the site, think over a convenient structure, and perfectly adapt the site to different screen resolutions. But they can't read the thoughts of your site's customers. Yes, design agency specialists study user behavior, take into account metrics and predict user paths, but only testing will show the true preferences and intentions of users.

Why is it necessary to test the perception of design by users:


Reason 1. The design will take into account the preferences of users, not the designer or the customer.

How is a website design usually created? In short: the customer tells what he wants (as an option — fills out a brief), after that a prototype and a visual brief are developed, and then the work is already on them. At the same time, designers rely not only on the client's vision and references, but also on their experience and current trends.

But no one, even the most experienced designer, can get into the head of end users and understand how they think. Moreover, paradoxically, not always a beautiful, modern and user-friendly website created taking into account the latest trends will work well. The main thing that matters is the response of the target audience, not the personal tastes of the designer or the customer. Preliminary analytics increases the probability of success. Testing also helps to identify whether the designer got to the point or not.


Reason 2. Testing will help to avoid disputes

It happens that the opinions of the customer and the designer differ. For example, with the "duckling syndrome", when the customer is so attached to the prototype that any design begins to seem too overloaded to him. There are two ways here — to agree with the client and do as he asks, or to offer him to test two versions of the design among the target audience. With a high probability, the client will agree with the solutions confirmed by statistical data.


Reason 3. Testing will give the missing information

Sometimes, the client is not sure about his vision of the project. Gives references with a reservation. that he doesn't like them too much. He is worried whether it is worth placing this or that block on the main page. Testing several hypotheses will help you understand what users want to see. Testing can be applied in the future, during the development of the project.


Reason 4. Design approval will accelerate and be more objective

Do you want to choose a mediocre option? Gather a working group to discuss the issue and make a decision. It's no secret that if the decision to accept the design on the customer's side is made collectively, the process is delayed, and the final version may not be the most optimal.

Design coordination becomes not a search for the best solution, but a way of self-expression for each participant: the marketing team, the head of the sales department, the CEO and his deputies… Of course, each of them has his own opinion, and edits often contradict each other. Testing will help to get rid of this endless process, because it is important how users see the design. This is a convenient and understandable argument.

Why don't A/B tests always work?

Everyone who is somehow connected with web design and development knows about the A/B testing method. But this method does not always show the true preferences of the target audience. When you offer users a choice of two scenarios, neither one may be suitable for them. As a result, they will choose the one that seems less bad, and not the one that will meet their requirements.

A/B testing offers users to simply evaluate the convenience of a particular option, without reference to the brand. But it is important to consider design as a continuation of the brand philosophy. Users usually choose options according to their own preferences: they don't care about philosophy. Therefore, when testing a design, it is important that the target audience sees the design in conjunction with the brand's mission and values. With the help of conventional A/B testing, it is impossible to evaluate the aesthetics, style, transfer of emotions and individuality of the design.

It's not enough to just show users two design options and ask which one they like the most. For example, the respondent may not like the design of the clinic's website. Too simple and pale, not enough animation. Although it is this design on a real website that will create the right impression for him — security, confidence, expertise.

Users often leave subjective comments, for example: "I don't like monochrome." It is important to understand why he does not like it — because the user simply does not like monochrome, or because the design does not fit into the prevailing ideas about the brand.

What should be taken into account when testing?

The main thing in design is to present the brand and its philosophy correctly (provided that everything is in order with usability). There are many ways to make a list of brand characteristics, and one of the most effective is to present it as a person.

You can take the character of a famous person or character as a basis, or you can create a "personality" yourself. Describe the character traits of this person — what is she like? Calm or flighty? Bright or modest? Conservative or ultra-modern? What does she like — the mountains or the sea, winter or summer?

So you will get a list of characteristics (in fact, a set of special words) that should be associated with your design. And based on this list, you will be able to conduct testing.


Unusual design testing methods

So, what are alternative design testing methods that will help not just choose from two options, but understand what the target audience really wants?


Advanced A/B testing

Before you start, give the audience a list of characteristics or concepts that should be associated with your brand. Choosing from two design options, users should focus not only on their preferences, but also on which option they associate more with the proposed words.

For example, for a network of family clinics, you can make the following list of characteristics:

  • safe;
  • calm;
  • light;
  • friendly;
  • harmonious;
  • sure.

This method will help to move away from the choice based on personal preferences and focus on a specific task — to express the brand philosophy as clearly as possible in the design.


Semantic differential method

Yes, it sounds complicated, but the essence is very simple — you offer users to evaluate one or more design options using antonyms. For example, do you ask if this design looks classic or ultra-modern? Simple or overloaded with details? Calm or bright?

You can simply give users a choice of two answer options or use a rating scale, for example, from 1 to 10. An important point is that the scale should consist of an even number of numbers. With an odd number — for example, from 1 to 5 — users are more likely to make a choice in favor of the average number. And an even number will make them lean in one direction or another.

Another variation of this method is to take brand words (as in the previous method), add antonyms to them, and then give users a rating. In the example with the water brand, it may look like this:

safe — risky;

calm — emotional;

light — dark;

friendly — closed;

harmonious - in search of yourself;

confident — shaky.

It is not necessary that some words are clearly positive, and others are clearly negative. Obviously, users will tend to be positive. Find non-trivial antonyms that will help show whether you have accurately reflected the brand philosophy in the design.


Design Competition

This method will allow you to understand how much your design is better or worse than the competing one. Select several designs of competitors that are closest to yours in philosophy, and invite users to rate them. Evaluation can be done in two ways:

  • using brand words — let users indicate which design they most accurately associate with each word;
  • through standard questions — which site seems more convenient, classic, credible, reflecting the philosophy of freedom, etc.

This way you will see whether your design really translates the brand's mission, and how it differentiates from competitors. If any competitor scores more points, then this is a reason to think about whether you have accurately understood the design task.


First Impression

The psychology of people is arranged in such a way that they are ready to evaluate something in the first moments. Show the focus group the site for just a couple of seconds and ask about their impression - whether it was positive or negative.

If at the same time you give respondents a list of brand words, they will be able to focus on it. Yes, they will probably base their reactions on these associations, but you will definitely be able to understand whether they liked or disliked the design at first glance.


In conclusion

Why are aesthetics and brand philosophy so important? Now many designers focus primarily on UX — User Experience, user experience. Of course, this is important, because the convenience of the site plays a major role if the user is not motivated enough.

However, your site can be incredibly useful and convenient, not cause users any questions, but at the same time — absolutely not stand out from the general mass. And brand awareness and memorability are very important. By testing not only usability, but also compliance with brand values, you will be able to create an excellent website that users will return to again and again.