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How to use design tests to deliver better products

Last updated

22 April 2023

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

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Software developers create applications, websites, and other digital products based on designs that meet specific criteria. 

During the design process, several collaborators share ideas and make changes. 

Upon completion, the finished design must meet quality assurance (QA) expectations before release to the development team. This is where design testing enters the design and development process.

Quality assurance engineers conduct design testing to ensure a finished digital design is error-free and complies with all project requirements. 

If you're unfamiliar with design tests, you've come to the right place. 

This article describes design tests, how to implement them, and top testing methods. 

What is a design test?

Design testing is the process of checking a digital design to ensure it includes the required features and correct content. It eliminates errors and finds deficiencies that don't match requirements before the project moves to development. 

The test requires a careful examination of a design compared to the project requirements and purpose. QA specialists audit every part of the visual design, certifying it as an accurate blueprint for developers to create the intended product.

Design testing requires an eye for detail and comprehensive knowledge of the application inside and out. It reveals inconsistencies and mistakes that need fixing before development. 

What you can learn

Design tests identify shortcomings and errors in a design. 

In this capacity, design tests can help you: 

  • Learn the differences between requirements and designs

  • Detect typos in texts

  • Determine whether the original requirements are robust enough for the application to fulfill its purpose

Every design has a job to do, and design testing can be a great way to examine how well the product design fulfills its intended role. Design testing can help you discover whether the application design evokes the brand's voice and content. 

It can also call into question whether the requested requirements are sufficient. Since testing follows a specific sequence, it reduces bias and shows the design from a different perspective.

Who is responsible for design testing?

Everyone involved in a software development project will have some responsibility in the design testing process. However, a QA engineer is usually most involved with visual design testing. 

Quality assurance begins at the beginning of the project, and they’ll carry out testing throughout the design and development phases. 

Decision makers might also be involved in approving results or asking for changes.

When should testing be carried out during the design process?

You should conduct design testing before releasing a design to the development team for the creation process. 

In most cases, programmers will examine the project requirements for function, and QA specialists will learn the application's purpose and analyze the visual design. 

Design testing can be before or during usability testing.

What are design test cases?

Generally, a design test case is a single design test. 

Test cases are the most fundamental part of any software testing approach. They are a sequence of steps for a test’s execution. 

Design test cases are the steps required to carry out a single design test and a written verification of how the expected outcome compares to the actual result. 

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Why you should embrace testing design concepts

Design testing requires time and resources. If your project’s on a tight timeline, skipping testing and moving on to product development can be tempting. 

However, design testing can vastly improve the development process. You can save time and money while finessing the product. 

Design testing offers these advantages:

A more predictable design process

Under perfect design circumstances, design testing would confirm a perfect design with no necessary changes. In that case, testing would slow the process and be an added expense. 

In reality, no design is perfect the first time, and design testing typically reveals required changes.

The design testing framework allows all stakeholders and team members to decide whether a design suits its intended purpose. 

More extensive testing can reveal and direct amendments. In either case, design testing allows you to complete multiple iterations during the design process. As a result, the development phase is more efficient. 

Limited conflicts

Designs are subjective. Each team member and stakeholder may see a design differently and evaluate it on opinion or personal bias. Design testing changes the basis on which people assess a design. 

Design testing allows designers and developers to create an evaluative framework of criteria. This criterion focuses the test on whether the design is doing its job. 

By changing the focus, teams no longer evaluate a design solely on simplicity or whether the client likes it. With a clear outline of essential criteria, you can eliminate conflict among team members that may be due to personal opinions or bias. 

Improved results

Design testing allows quality assurance testers to find errors. It also provides an opportunity to investigate every aspect of the product's visual design. With a checklist of essential criteria, design teams can ensure the design is robust enough for its intended functions. 

Design is subjective. Taking a product from idea to conception requires ongoing communication and multiple iterations. It can be all too easy to design an entire project around a misunderstanding or overlook a font issue that decreases the visibility of the CTA. 

Design testing allows teams to identify issues early and produce the best product possible.  

How to implement design testing

While the concept of design testing seems direct, you can test many visual design elements for various reasons. Before you can determine how well a design is working, begin with a clear idea of what you're testing. 

Visual designs connect with users and improve the functionality of an application. Before implementing design testing, consider what types of tests you want to conduct, as this influences the test requirements. 

Tools and costs

While it's true that design tests can prolong the time to development and add expenses to the project, these tests can save you money in the long run. 

Various tools and software offerings are available to make the job easier. 

You can use design testing tools to compare appearance and run specific tests. These tools can shorten the testing process and save money.

Some popular tools for design testing include:

  • Font finder websites

  • Devtools

  • Pixel Perfect

How long does it take?

Unfortunately, there is no defined timeline for design testing. 

The amount of time required for testing can depend on: 

  • Your project’s complexity 

  • Where you are in the design process

  • How many changes you need to implement

Every time you make changes, additional testing must ensure no new errors or deficiencies. 

When evaluating the time for design testing, remember that the time commitment will undoubtedly be shorter than developing multiple iterations of your product.

Why is it important to test a design multiple times? 

Usually, multiple team members carry out the design process, and several changes occur throughout. While it's best practice to implement corrections into the final version, it can be easy to mix up versions. 

Even with a "complete" version, testing leads to repairs that can result in new errors or incomplete fixes. Conducting design testing multiple times reduces the chances of errors and deficiencies appearing in the final copy.  

Top product design testing methods (and how to use them effectively)

Your test methods depend on your goals and position in the development process. 

Top product design methods provide a comprehensive look into the effectiveness of the entire design. You can use multiple tests to assess brand, personality, and how the visual hierarchy affects usability.

Test brand and personality

To make a connection with a brand, users must trust the product. You may never have the opportunity to build that trust without a good first impression. 

Appearance is the first thing users see: If it's dated, unappealing, or lacks function, potential customers will seek a better product. 

You can use three ways to test how the visual design of your application or website communicates with users.

Semantic differential survey

To conduct this test, begin development with a list of keywords you want the design to convey. Upon design completion, testers will rate the design against each keyword.

Preference tests

Developing multiple concepts of a design means you can more accurately develop a theme that meets all expectations. A preference test allows testers to select the design they prefer.

Competition testing

Comparing your design to the competition is essential to establishing your position in the marketplace. Competition testing is a preference test performed against your competitors' websites.

Test usability and visual hierarchy

Although design testing and usability testing are different, an application's visual design impacts usability. A website or application must do more than look great and communicate the right feel to the user. It must also be easy to use.

Visual hierarchy is arranging design elements to show their order of importance. Two main tests check visual hierarchy and usability:

First click tests

When users can quickly see how to complete a task, they're more likely to follow through and reach their goals. However, a wrong first click can lead the user to abandon the process.

A first-click test begins by assigning a user a specific task. 

For example, you might ask the tester to find pricing or to learn more about the company. The test records the first click by the user. If users don’t take the expected action, you might need to make adjustments. 

5-second tests

Research estimates you only have eight seconds to grab a user's attention. 

Your app or website design must present information and visuals in the most user-friendly way possible. Five-second tests distinguish between important and unimportant information.

A 5-second test determines the effectiveness of your design's visual hierarchy. It allows you to check the visibility and memorability of visual elements. 

The test involves showing an image to a participant for five seconds. After the visual, the participant answers questions based on their memory and impression of the design.

While the timeframe is too short to notice specific details, it's long enough to develop a first impression. 

Gain insight with design testing

Product design plays a vital role in usability and user engagement. It can be easy to pass off design testing as an unnecessary step that requires too much time or resources. 

However, it's a critical step in preparing for successful product development. 

Design testing can eliminate the need for multiple iterations during product development, saving time and money. Adapting design testing into your development process is key to keeping your developers and bottom line happy.

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