Skip to content

The Difference Between Early Stage and Late Stage User Testing

 By Userlytics
 Sep 28, 2017

The Difference Between Early Stage and Late Stage User Testing


Everyone knows that user research is important for building a highly usable product. It’s the exact details of the research process that are less obvious.

Designers have a vast array of research techniques to choose from. What’s more, the objectives of these techniques will change based on where you are in the product design lifecycle.

For example, user testing in the discovery phase should be generative in nature, i.e., focused on identifying current patterns and producing ideas for how to design a better solution.

Meanwhile, testing in the later stages of product design will focus on validating or in-validating your design direction.

To create an effective user experience, you need to make sure you conduct the appropriate research throughout the design process. Otherwise, you risk settling on an average design when more effective options exist.

To avoid that fate, here’s how your research objectives and methods should change as you advance through your process.

What to Look for During Early Stage Research

Whether you’re redesigning an existing product or creating something from scratch, early stage user research is critical.

And this research has to be unbiased — or as close to unbiased as humanly possible.

Because if you don’t take the time to uncover what your audience needs, you’ll just spend time justifying the design that you think is best rather than uncovering a truly user-centric solution.

We see this mistake quite often at DePalma. Clients will hire us to redesign their application after their IT department built something all the users hated.

Qualitative and Quantitative

That’s why user research in the discovery phase should combine qualitative and quantitative techniques.

Remote user testing is an excellent quantitative method for discovery research, because it helps you build a consensus about the usability of a design using data.

Some of the most important metrics you can use to inform your design include:

These metrics will not only uncover which tasks users can easily complete — and therefore which parts of a design are effective — but they also provide a baseline you can compare your later work to.

It’s important to supplement your quantitative user research with qualitative user testing. That way you’ll be able to uncover emotional needs, generate new ideas, and understand individual expectations that might not be obvious in quantitative data.

Ideally, you’ll accomplish your qualitative research with smaller test groups on a platform that allows you to take an iterative, Agile UX approach.

How to Plan Remote User Testing for Discovery

Remote user testing is one of the few research techniques that allows you to combine qualitative and quantitative analysis.

To set up a usability test in the discovery phase, identify the 3-5 tasks that are most important to the initial scope of your project. Then watch how users perform them.

As you watch users navigate your usability tests, ask yourself these questions:

How do people currently accomplish tasks? Even if you’re using a competitor’s design as an asset, look for patterns in how people navigate the interface.

What frustrates them about the current setup? Even if the test is unmoderated, prompt users to vocalize their frustrations so you can uncover exactly what’s holding them up.

Are there workarounds they need to take with the current software? If so, can you use these workarounds as a basis for your new design?

How do people wish the software performed? Again, this is where qualitative data plays a key role. Either in the test itself or afterward, make sure to follow up with participants and ask this question.

Whenever you conduct usability testing, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re using a platform that helps you locate key events and comments from your data.

If you recruit a large number of participants, you’re going to have hours upon hours of video. Utilizing a system that offers you time-stamped, hyper linked transcriptions as well as highlight reels and annotations, will make your job much, much easier.

Otherwise, you could be drowning in a pile of an endless pile of sticky notes.

Sticky Notes

Remember, when you’re conducting user research early in the process, the goal is to be generative. Make your objective to uncover new ideas directly from your users.

What to Look for During Late Stage Research

In contrast to the discovery phase — when you’re generating ideas — the later stages in the design process should focus on evaluative research.

Again, there’s a library of testing techniques you can use at this stage in the process, so for simplicity’s sake, let’s focus on how usability testing differs at this stage.

When you set up your test, you should still be concerned with the same 3-5 tasks you tested early (unless one of those workflows didn’t need redesigning).

The difference now is that you’re refining the processes instead of discovering them. So ask yourself these questions as you gather new data:

  • Are the new quantitative metrics better than the baseline you established earlier?
  • Is the solution intuitive? Does the user flow take fewer steps?
  • How does the qualitative feedback differ from the discovery phase?

Your first round of evaluative testing won’t be perfect. It’s normal for your initial design to have flaws. That’s why we test.

The goal is to look for indicators you’re moving in the right direction and then continue to iterate.

This is where having the right tools makes a difference. It’s normal to have several ideas about which direction to take your design. With a system like Userlytics, you can run A/B tests during your user research to uncover which of your ideas resonates most with your audience.

In addition, you could very easily be responsible for designing a mobile version of the product, which will require an entirely different round of usability testing. Userlytics lets you quickly test mobile prototypes with small groups of users and rapidly iterate.

If you’re armed with the right tools and the right methodology, you’ll be able to take a scientific approach to improving your design, instead of guessing about what should happen next.

About the Author: Userlytics


Since 2009 we have been helping enterprises, governmental organizations, non-profits, agencies and startups optimize their user experience, or UX. With our state-of-the-art platform, massive global participant panel and unlimited accounts/seats for democratizing user research, we are the best all-in-one solution for remote user testing.

Schedule a Free Demo

Didn’t find what you were searching for?

Related posts

You have been working hard and investing a budget on your latest product -you can't wait to get it in front of end users after an arduous design process. But you're also aware that the success of a product or service depends
AB Testing UX As businesses strive to stand out in competitive markets, their success hinges upon understanding and catering to the needs of their users. After all, an exceptional user experience not only fosters customer loyalty but also drives conversions and ultimately
Designing Meaningful Experiences in a Globalized World In today's interconnected world, it is crucial to design products and services that cater to diverse audiences. To achieve this, user research must be situated within the context of global design, considering the social, economic,
As UX researchers and designers, we understand the critical role that user experience research plays in creating successful products that meet the needs of our customers. However, conducting research is only the first step in the process - effectively communicating the findings
In the world of user experience (UX) research and design, stakeholder buy-in is crucial for success, though it is often a point of contention for practitioners who aim to prioritize UX in their organization. Without the support of stakeholders, UX research can
In today's digital landscape, creating a seamless and captivating user experience (UX) has become the cornerstone of success, regardless of the industry you are in. Testing digital assets is one of the most critical aspects to staying competitive. However, it is not
It’s no secret that a well thought out and engaging digital user experience increases sales as well as a loyal customer base. But what happens when your customer base extends into different countries and cultures? Do you copy, paste, and translate your
For years if not decades top management executives from large corporations have talked about how the user experience (UX) of their customers is a top priority. However, a quick & easy user test of even some of the most important and well
What’s the difference between a great user experience and a tolerable one? One might say the high-level stuff, like layout and design, but ultimately it’s in the details, or microinteractions. Microinteractions often make or break a digital user experience. When done well
Accessibility is a crucial aspect of creating digital products that can be used by as many people as possible. When designing a digital product, it's important to consider accessibility so that everyone, including those with disabilities, can access and use the product
They say finding love is one of the hardest things to do as a human being. We’ve been fed this narrative our entire lives, with movies, books, and songs all focusing on how impossible it is to find “the one.” Even in
User Experience (UX) has become a critical differentiating factor for businesses. To meet users' evolving expectations, UX research plays a pivotal role in understanding user behavior, pain points, and preferences. In this context, with the rapid advancements in Artificial Intelligence (AI), UX
UX designers strive to create intuitive, seamless, and delightful experiences for users —whether for websites, mobile apps, or prototypes. And one of the key components in achieving this goal is user research, a crucial phase where UX experts strive to understand users,
Things to be Thankful for: Advantages of Professional Peer Support in UX Research Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on all the things we are thankful for. As user researchers, we are thankful for the ability to connect with our peers and
2022 has been a busy and exciting time at Userlytics. We’ve launched several new features and capabilities, including sentiment analysis, accessibility testing, the ULX score, and VR testing. These newly implemented tools were designed to enhance your experience and provide you with
As staples of nearly all research conducted today, many people think they know about the differences between qualitative (qual) and quantitative (quant) testing. However, in the context of user research, these two methodologies are often used interchangeably. So, when to use one
Understanding what democratizing user research means is not as simple as searching for the definition online, or asking a colleague for a quick summary. In a general sense, the universal definition is “providing all stakeholders with access to user insight and UX
It's no secret that a good website or app user experience is crucial for boosting sales. In an offline location such as a store or restaurant, being physically present may keep a prospect even if the experience is subpar. But in an
In the ever-evolving realm of user experience (UX) design, research acts as the compass that guides designers towards creating delightful and intuitive digital experiences. As UX designers, we understand the vital role research plays in uncovering user insights, informing design decisions, and
As a UX researcher or designer, it's important to have a clear understanding of your target customer before beginning a remote UX study. Target user research is crucial for designing user-centric products and services. It helps ensure that the end result aligns
User research is an essential part of the UX design process. It helps us to understand our users, their needs, and their pain points. It provides the foundation for ultimately shaping the success of a product or service. However, without a systematic
In remote user experience and usability testing, there are a variety of factors that contribute to valuable, authentic user data that can be used to improve your brand’s user and customer experience. Among those factors are the quality and authenticity of the
Are you thinking about doing some user testing on your website, app or prototype? Are you currently weighing up the different options available to you? Should you use a free video-conferencing tool or a paid user testing platform? What are the differences
If you visited a complex website and found everything you were looking for with ease, it was unlikely a coincidence. A well-designed website structure is often the result of careful user research and testing, following information architecture principles and best practices. So
While remote user experience testing significantly enhances researchers' ability to reach test participants, these participants’ technical skills and access to technology can often vary greatly. Therefore, it is important to design and administer remote tests that facilitate participants' varying technical skills and
Userlytics prides itself in being a truly global platform. With over one million panel testers in over 150 countries, we are happy to say that we are able to find and test your target customers, wherever they may be. With the inception
In today’s highly digital world, cybersecurity is of the utmost importance when running day to day business operations. As usability testing grows in popularity, so does the need to choose a UX platform that values your company's privacy and security. But how
Userlytics makes user experience testing easy, efficient and fun with its state-of-the-art no-download web recorder. This revolutionary user experience testing recorder allows participants to jump right into usability tests directly with a simple click of a button; this means you can more
2021 is a year dedicated to the customer. Businesses are moving away from organizational-centric strategies and thinking more and more about the needs of their customers. But what exactly do customers want? Customers want their experience with brands and digital assets to
Moderated testing sessions are a great opportunity to get thorough and instant feedback from users all around the world. This type of testing involves a live, online interview where you are face-to-face with your users via webcam, asking them questions, guiding them
Researching the ins and outs of your business is integral to setting your company up for success. Increasingly, fine-tuning and improving your customers’ brand experience has become one of the top priorities for businesses. With customer expectations being at an all-time high,
Are you a UX researcher who mainly conducts in-person studies and you’re looking for some online alternatives to get you through this unusual period of lockdown and social distancing? Or perhaps you’re someone who is starting their path down UX enlightenment, looking
Given the current world health and associated economic crisis, Userlytics ran a qualitative moderated ("Live Conversations") user experience study with participants in the US to determine how respondents’ online shopping behavior has changed as a result of the pandemic. The following is
Picture this: an online shopping user clicks on a product they like but the description does not say everything they need to know before making online purchases; key features, pricing and availability, or shipping and return information -strike 1. To find out
The Best and Worst UX in the Travel Industry Finding the best flight deals online can be an exhilarating experience. Almost every booking site today promises the lowest fares available and, in some cases, even a price match guarantee. With such a
Last November 18th our CEO was interviewed by Ditsa Keren, of Website Planet; Here are some excerpts from the interview: “If we take a step back and think about how software has evolved over the past 15 years, the cost and time
Designers are prone to falling into the trap of cluttering their interfaces. Limitations of space often push them to the wall, and they find themselves trying to fit everything they can into a tiny usable space. The unique problem that the modern
How Can Bad UX Influence Your Conversion Funnel? Source: Shengjun Shi Regardless of whether you sell a product, offer a service or run a blog, any visitor comes to your site with simple goals like consuming or gathering more information. The user experience
From initial concept to finished draft, tips on how to craft an effective unmoderated user study A user test is a little bit like cake: you know what a great one looks like, but you’re not quite sure how to go from
Apple has recently entered the race with its Homepod. Which of the two current leaders, Amazon's Alexa (Echo) or Google Home, provides the best user experience? Interactive Voice Response (IVR) systems used by banks and utility companies provide some of the clearest
February 22th, 2018 Usability testing data is a sure-fire way to eliminate guess-work and focus on making the UX design process more effective. These types of user tests can help you figure out if your audience can adequately use your website or mobile app. Additionally, they help
In theory, every company these days is customer-centric and has a mobile-responsive design process, and yet a surprising amount of companies haven't updated their online stores or platforms accordingly. Many of them are not leveraging the benefits user testing can bring to their business. Today's
Online shopping is not a new concept. According to statistics, about 80% of Americans are shopping online these days, some exclusively, with zero visits to actual physical stores. With years of experience of e-commerce design and user research, one would think major e-commerce sites
Turning visitors and prospects into paying customers is about more than good advertising and slick SEO. Users are savvy enough to tell the difference between good and bad UX, and it can often be the differentiating factor between a single visit and
Are you delivering the best user experience for your website and mobile app visitors? You may think your website or app offers seamless navigation, intuitive form usage, and an effective way for users to interact with the information being provided. However, the real question is: What
By Mark Hall, Guest Blogger.An e-commerce and Customer Research Expert who has consulted for over 20 years with a wide range of clients including AT&T, American Express, Edmunds, SpyTec and the California Lottery. When not working, Mark enjoys playing saxophone, mountain biking
Everybody working in the IT industry has seen a number of case study videos, where users talk about glitches in software, unavailable options in apps, and their ideal features and interfaces. Running a remote unmoderated usability study seems to be an easy way
The conflict between qualitative and quantitative user experience research methodologies has its origin in a time when computers were only a dream, and with the emergence of the social sciences over a century ago. It lies in a struggle that is much older than
How to tell the difference, and when to bring both into your projects In the world of User Experience Research, there’s often some confusion surrounding the difference between User Studies (and user research in general) and User Acceptance Testing (UAT). In the
Quantifying how good a user experience is, or how well a site meets the needs of its users, can be a difficult task. We can look objectively at metrics like time on task, or success/failure rates to determine user behavior, but they

Let’s work together on your next UX study.

Create positive user experiences and keep customers loyal to your product and brand.

Analytics tells you what,
Userlytics tells you WHY.