Insights & Advice

Getting user testing right. 3 pointers for where to get started.

When creating a new app or platform, asking for feedback is one of the most important steps to ensure what you have meets your customers needs.

If you’re not careful this feedback however can be laced with false positives, incorrect assumptions and send you in the wrong direction on your roadmap to mass adoption.

So how do you gain the best feedback to help guide you to success?

User Testing

Photo by Adam Wilson

#1 Who to ask

You need a right mix of people and most importantly you need people who are your target audience. But this is obvious, right?

Top Tip

Most people when building an app, particularly at MVP stage, will use friends and family to ask for feedback. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this, so long as it’s taken into consideration before doing anything with the results. I’ve explained why below.

It’s obvious really, the most tangible results will come from the audience you designed it for.

My advice is this. Create three groups of use of feedback.

Group 1: Friendlies

This group is mostly where your friends and family sit. If we’re talking about an app, this is to be one of the first groups testing. The role group 1 plays is testing your idea and ironing out any obvious bugs, compatibility issues and problems with usability.

However, these people will NOT be honest with you. Even though they say they will, the feedback may be a version of the truth. More often than not you’ll find that these people don’t want to offend, and prefer to encourage you with your endeavours. For this reason they may give you feedback but it will probably be the watered down version.

Group 2: The nurtured/curated

Curated from social media or from industry experts. What I mean by curated is you’ve spent time and energy to personally tell them about your idea, they’ve bought into your vision and you started to grow a relationship with these people. They’ve offered your help, either paid or unpaid and will give you an unbiased view. These people must have the knowledge of the industry or experience of the environment where your app solves a problem.

Curated audiences help you to ensure that the idea and what you have created are aligned.

Group 3: Target Users

This is where you spread your testing much wider, but you’re far more calculated about why you’re targeting them. This will be the most honest feedback you receive. You don’t talk to these people for long about your product but you do send the same communication to all of them about what you are doing, what you want tested and why they have been targeted.

Group 3’s objective is to help you understand how much is used, where it needs to be improved and potentially as a final point what’s missing.

Testing with these three groups should be linear with some time in between to allow for improvements and to give feedback where necessary.

To summarise…

Group 1 helps you identify key problems and issues.
Group 2 confirms that what you have built solves the problem and the product is going in a good direction.
Group 3 helps you to understand what is used, where it needs to be improved and what is missing.

This is a very simplified way of determining user testing groups. It’s a foundation of sorts for a much more complex testing process should you wish. But these groups of people, when used correctly will help you gain a good understanding and to make progress with your product.

#2 The way that you ask

This is one that trips people up most of the time. Asking the wrong questions will provide you with misleading answers.

I hear so often people asking for feedback on their app.

Customer – “Harry I wonder if you’d mind giving me some feedback on my new idea.”

Me – Sure how can I help

Customer – “Well I built this app that does [insert app idea here] and I need someone who knows what they’re doing with these things to tell me what’s wrong with it.”

Do you see the problem?

In asking someone what is wrong with your app you’re implying that something is wrong with it in the first place. This leads to your test user to already have the belief that they have to find a fault with it or they have failed. There may be nothing wrong with the app. It may be perfect. Perhaps unlikely at this stage, but it has happened before.

So asking for feedback needs to be simple, concise and non-leading.

Obviously coming up with a templated structure to achieve this would be difficult as every app is different but try starting with the following structure:

  1. I have an app that I’d like you to test.
  2. The idea is that it solves this problem for these people.
  3. I’d like you to test [feature 1,2,3] and provide your feedback in this document.
  4. If you have any other feedback please let me know separately.

This way you clearly identify what you have, what you’d like them to test, why they’re testing it, and for feedback to be provided in a structured way so that it’s easily identified and sorted when it’s received.

#3 The structure you ask for

I’ve already touched a little on this topic in the previous point. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of giving structure when asking for feedback. The reason for this is twofold.

If you ask using structure you’ll receive structure.

When testing is done properly you’re likely to receive tons of messages, sentences, paragraphs, bullets, thoughts and feelings about what you have asked people to test. You’ll also receive a lot of unnecessary and distracting “stuff” that you’ll need to filter out.

Receiving this in a documented formatted structure.

This will be a big step in making life easier for you and your team in sorting, filtering and prioritising the results. Having a system where screenshots can be captured and uploaded to demonstrate problems is also a good thing. There are lots of tools available for this that record the user doing the testing.

Top Tip

Ask the right questions of the right users. You’re NOT looking for ideas of what feature is missing, or a list of things that would be great in the future. You’re looking for feedback on what you have now, whether it meets the criteria of your audience and information on how you might improve it.

Simply create a sheet, list the test and the criteria. You might like to create a scoring system. Scoring systems help you to put everyone on the same playing field and are a great help in sorting priorities.


All in all a good testing plan and structure will always help, ensure you’ve got a full understanding of who you’ve selected and why, how you are going to engage with them and what format you should receive the feedback in.

Next time you ask somebody for feedback consider these three pointers. You should find testing is more reliable, more tangible, and much more valuable.

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