Here at Panoply Digital, it’s been a busy few months with lots of exciting work happening all over the world: Lauren has been in Zambia for monitoring and evaluation work, Ronda has been in Calais working with refugees and Michael has been in Cambodia delivering training course around technology and opportunities for developing capacity.
As for me, this summer I’ve been busy doing user testing for an IVR-based edutainment service for adolescent girls in Bangladesh, working with Praekelt Foundation and BRAC. I wrote a blog post a year or so ago about user testing a mobile product with women, and I thought it might be time for a quick update, based on what I’ve experienced this time around.
I still feel that user testing is an invaluable step in creating any mobile product - helping you get your product right for the audience, and understand any issues or pain points along the user journey. I also still feel it’s particularly important for women - ensuring the user journey is not too complicated for female users, who may have less technical literacy, and ensuring the content meets the needs and wants of women.
This particular user testing in Bangladesh was done with adolescent girls aged 14 - 16, and there are a few key points that I think (still) need to be considered when planning user testing for teenage girls:
- User testing doesn’t have to be expensive but return on investment is high.
Without revealing the exact budget, the Bangladesh user testing in rural and urban locations with 20 participants cost far less than you’d think. I often encounter a lot of resistance around including user testing in an M&E (or service design) budget as it’s seen as a ‘nice to have’ rather than an essential. I feel that actually, it’ll cost you more in the long run if you have to make major changes if the user journey or content isn’t right.
Investing in user testing (and including it in your budget) right from the start helps you understand your users and ensure you have a product or service that’s right for them, rather than having to make expensive changes once it launches.
2. Consider safety and security aspects, for female teenage respondents (and parents).
Holding user tests in venues that are far for the girls to travel to, or that are seen as ‘unsafe’ by their parents or guardians is guaranteed to put respondents off. Go to the girls – don’t expect them to come to you. Get them to bring their parents too. With Praekelt and BRAC, we conducted user testing in BRAC offices near the girls’ homes – meaning they didn’t have to travel far and so were more likely to attend.
It also meant that they already knew the venue and were comfortable and relaxed during the user test. Equally importantly, their parents were comfortable with them attending, and by providing a place for the girls’ parents to sit outside while the user tests are happening, we were able to assuage any parental concerns.
3. Use an ‘older sister’ facilitator.
Teenage girls are often more comfortable with women they can relate to, and so having a female facilitator is crucial. But you need to get it right - if your facilitator is more like their teacher, they may be intimidated and feel they have to say things to please them, or are afraid to admit any difficulties; if your facilitator is more like one of their friends, they may feel a bit of peer pressure to get everything right to not appear ‘stupid’.
We found that an older sister-style facilitator works well - the atmosphere is relaxed and chatty, so that users were more likely to be honest, and not embarrassed if they ran into difficulties as the facilitator could help them, but at the same time we reduced the pressure that a facilitator their own age might bring.
4. Individual tests reduce peer pressure.
Female users are often less confident mobile users and may be embarrassed about finding things difficult, and this can be amplified if they are part of a group of teenage girls. Doing individual tests makes the users more comfortable and encourages them to express their own opinions more honestly.
What do you think? Is there anything you would add to this?