Example: What We Learned from a Super-Simple User Test

A friend asked me last week for advice about user testing on a tight budget. People at his organization acknowledge  the benefits of user testing, but still can’t quite make the time for it. That reminded me of a few weeks ago where we got important insight — quickly and for free.

We were working on the logo for a campaign to reform the laws that (don’t) protect us from toxic chemicals: I’m Not a Guinea Pig. We had logo concepts that took two different directions. Most people on our project team figured we’d incorporate a guinea pig (below left). The other option was something more chemical-like (below right).

guinea pig test logosOur graphic designer, Jane Song, gave us several options. Our project lead, Amy, showed the designs to a few EDF staffers who weren’t working on the project. She asked them open-ended questions about what they thought the campaign was. For the one featuring the cute little guinea pig, people tended to think the campaign was about animals. The beaker, in contrast, made people think about chemicals.

However, that early version of the lab beaker wasn’t perfectly understood — one person on the project team even thought it was a key! More design adjustments made it less ambiguous, and the final group of quick testers all understood the campaign’s topic clearly.

This process was so simple that I hesitate to even call it “testing” — that makes people think of pricey consultants and one-way mirrors. Of course, we didn’t get nearly as much insight out of it as we would have a formal test with a working prototype, script, and real users. But at this point in the project, all we needed was simple direction on the logo, and we got it.

Who possibly couldn’t have time for this?