Building a successful app is no easy task, there are so many things to take care of. From a product development perspective one thing is key: one must test, test and test. The questions are who to test, what to test, where to test and when to test.
Here is a breakdown of what I learnt at mbrace and how my team is navigating the mostly untouched sphere of “social discovery”.
WHO: Define User Stereotypes
Stereotypes allow you to understand users’ personalities, thereby making a number of inferences based on a smaller number of observations. For example, is your user a student or a professional? Are they single or in a relationship? Analyzing user specifications and classifying them into common stereotypes allows user patterns to be detected and target segments to be clustered.
By stereotyping, you can see what potential users need from your product as well as how they interact with it. This information is critical for feature building and user experience and will ultimately determine how your product develops.
In the case of the “social discovery” sphere which mbrace is tapping into, meeting new people is not limited to romantic (Tinder) nor professional relationships (Linkedin) but driven by an openness to getting to know new people near you, for numerous opportunities such as dating, networking, and making new friends. Therefore, it’s important to talk to all potential users, create user stereotypes and iterate product development based on their personality and needs.
WHAT: Test Feature By Feature
Once patterns are found via stereotyping and target segments are clustered, it is important to test each feature separately and compare results against each other. This is important because it helps you understand users’ acceptance of a new feature and how well it fits with other features.
Does the user perceive the feature as hypothesized? In testing features specifically, they can be iterated based on results and ultimately the results can be integrated into the overall product concept in which each features’ contribution is assessed in relation to the whole product and user experience. For mbrace, “personalised contexts”, in which relevant location contexts or interest categories are presented in order to discover relevant people around you, have proven to show positive results for social discovery.
However, testing feature by feature in relation to “personalised contexts” will give us a better idea of how contexts should be designed for the usability and in what way and under which circumstances they would find these contexts useful. Each feature is interdependent and will determine how the end product will look like.
WHERE: Test In Natural Settings
Once you know who to test and what to test, it is key to know where to test. To really observe the user experience of your product, it must also be tested in its natural setting – this means in a location in which the app will ultimately be used. For mbrace, it makes sense to test at events with high patronage as well as bars and nightclubs. Also, at places like coffee shops so that the product can be tested in different environments and subsequently compare results according to location, chosen target and circumstances. For example, testing a group of students at a party or at a university has a lot of different variables such as two different locations, divergent openness to talk or time and availability constraints.
Knowing what the user wants is a hard and lengthy process. This is often because they themselves don’t know what they want or how they would use an app in a specific situation. Thus, presenting the product in the most natural setting in order to test acceptance, perception and usability must be considered whilst planning for testing.
“When” reflects timing, an undeniably important variable when putting an app to market and considering it the “finished” product. In fact, iteration is a timely process in which trade-offs have to be made. A balance must be found between building a perfect product and shipping new features to users as often as possible in order to test them. The question of “when” to test is led by a set of hypotheses which are constantly being reformulated when new results are drawn throughout the product development process.
It is important to formulate both qualitative and quantitative hypotheses for each test case, in which a basic assumption is made against which actual results can be compared to. Re-iterations are then made based on test results: hypothesize, test, draw results, repeat. The objective is to pass from an alpha version to a beta version, which proves to be the minimally viable product that can be tested with a larger set of participants. This positive feedback will allow you to move forward from alpha to beta and ultimately the final product.
mbrace helps you discover new people around you and make meaningful connections. It’s about never missing the opportunity to get to know someone interesting to you – whether for networking, making new friends or dating. With iBeacon technology, context-based, time-specific data will be presented via a personalised stream of relevant information about those around you. Use mbrace wherever you go and don’t miss an opportunity to meet someone you wouldn’t have met just by chance!
Curious? Feel free to join the beta-group to check out features for yourself and give feedback on the UX. Click here to join.