How Concept Testing Makes Your Designs More Successful

Is the market ready for you? Are you ready for the market?

Only one way to find out: concept testing. When designing a new product, or the surrounding messaging, you want to go with the right design right away. Spoiler alert: it often doesn’t exist just yet.

Your ideas need some fine-tuning, a fresh set of eyes. Who better to provide that, than the ones who will buy it?

All good products have one feature in common: they have customers who want them. When designing anything new, it’s easy to get lost in the flow. Once you think you’re on the right track, you’re unstoppable.

But what if at the end of that track are, well, not enough customers who actually want to buy your product? What if there was a side road you missed that led to much more success?

Your customers are here to guide the way—all you have to do is ask. With customer testing, that becomes possible. Not to mention vital. Let’s dive into the real reasons why concept testing makes for great designs, and how to do it.


Why Concept Testing Your Designs is Vital

You might have a lot of ideas, but very little time. Which ones should you capitalize on? How do you find out without a lengthy, costly developing process? The answer is concept testing, at an early stage.

When you combine the creativity of your team with the feedback from your customer base, you’ll save money, and make more of it. Here’s why.

1. You learn from your mistakes

The process of creating new designs is incredibly rewarding. In business, it’s the end result that should be the most valuable—it has to sell—but there’s a lot of value in the process, too.

Gathering real-life data from actual customers on your ideas will teach you a lot about your design process, the market, and the ideas. Even if a concept doesn’t make it past the testing phase, you’ll have many new insights on the way your customers think.

2. It saves you time and money—a lot of it

A lot of resources go into creating something new—not to mention motivation. How your customers react to it will literally make or break a new product. But leaving that moment to launch day is a huge risk. What if you’ve overlooked some features or issues in your design?

Having to go back and fix it is a costly process. In fact, development teams spend 40 to 50% of their time on reworks that could’ve been avoided, had they used a method like concept testing.

So concept testing doesn’t necessarily slow the process down if done right. As long as the goal is to get the best design out there, not the fastest.

3. It helps create an organization-wide vision

Another reason concept testing is valuable for designers is that it can help get stakeholders on board. If management can’t really see what you see but hears that customers are getting excited, they’re more likely to get on board and provide the necessary resources.

Even the most critical thinkers in your organization can’t deny the importance of your customers’ opinions. Gathering those through concept testing will lay a great foundation for a shared vision for the end product.

4. It’s great bonding for you and your customers

It’s very refreshing to be asked what you want, rather than having someone assuming they know. When you involve customers in your design and decision-making process, it will strengthen the relationship between the two of you. They feel more valued, and might reward you with some extra loyalty or even refer you to friends and family.

Afraid of Rejection?

We’ve all been there. But in concept testing, customers rejecting your ideas—kindly or not—isn’t necessarily the end of the world. Even failed concept tests hold value. They will help you eliminate bad ideas in the future more quickly.

When using concept testing for design, see it as a method to design a product with your customers, not just for them. That way, you’ll make sure you make the best possible product.

Let go of the thought that concept testing is merely a method to confirm you’re on the right track. It’s not there to stroke your ego. You should be open to the idea that customers will shoot down your design, hard.

This means you should set up the testing in a way that they can do that, that gives space for actual, real feedback, and not guide them towards giving desired answers.

Don’t just stop at the fact that people don’t like your products, but dive deep into the reasons behind that. Then, you can translate these to what will work in future designs.

When’s the right time for concept testing?

Oh, there’s never a wrong time for concept testing. Except for, maybe, the day before you launch a product.

Like I said, concept testing should not be a way to validate or verify your design. You should use it much earlier in the process, and if possible, repeat it.

Make concept testing an iterative part of the design process, from idea to launch. Along the way, ideas can develop, and new key decisions have to be made, so make sure to get feedback on as many of them as possible.

Let’s look at the goals of concept testing:

  • It should save you time in the design process, by not having to go back to fix mistakes as much
  • It should help you design a product that your customers will not just love, but actually buy

When looking at that first objective, you’ll realize that the sooner you start testing, the better. The further you get into the design and development process, the more expensive and frustrating it will be to go back and fix things.

You can apply concept testing as early as in the ideation phase, before even deciding to follow through with the design in your mind. When you leave that phase with a viable idea that customers seem to love, you can repeatedly use concept testing to see if you’re on the right track. For instance, when creating a prototype, or when crafting your marketing message.

How to do concept testing—the right way

Concept testing is not just a formality or something to check off your to-do list. It’s a partnership with your customer base that will reward you if you do it right. Here’s how.

Pick a goal for your test

Concept testing designs should be done with precision. Don’t just show your customers what you’ve got so far and ask, ‘‘so, what do you think?’’. Break it down to specific features and tie goals to this for your concept testing research.

Prepare for the test

If you really want to get all the value there is in concept testing, create guidelines and templates of how to do it for your organization. With a standardized set of concept testing dimensions, you’ll be able to define more clearly what matters to you and your customers.

Make a knowledge base solution to fall back on an integral part of your design process. Designers, critical thinkers, and management can dive right in and find the testing objectives and key attributes you’ll be looking at, making sure every next test is as good as the last. This is especially important when following up on concept testing from the ideation phase to the prototype phase.

Choose the right method

Based on the goal you have, you can choose the most effective concept testing method.

There are many right ways, but it’s still easy to get lost. To find the path that gives you the most actionable data from your customers, let’s look at some ways you can do concept testing, and see which one feels like a good fit for you.

  1. Monadic testing: in this case, respondents fully evaluate one single concept. If you have multiple feature designs to pick from, give each respondent only one and gather feedback on that, which you can compare later. This method really gives you in-depth insights into individual designs.
  2. Sequential monadic testing: another way to test various feature designs, is to show all respondents all options. That way, they’ll be the ones comparing it—and picking their favorite.
  3. Comparative testing: you guessed it-this method will help you pick between two options.
  4. Protomonadic testing: when you combine sequential and comparative testing, you get people to pick their favorite, and elaborate on why they chose that one.

Evaluate your testing method

After launch, look back at your concept testing to see how it made a difference in the design process. What things have you had to change based on the feedback you were receiving? What would the product have looked like if you hadn’t, and what would be the consequences of that?

Evaluating your concept testing practices will help you pick the right tool next time. Moreover, it will shift your focus to the right aspects in your design earlier on for your next great idea.

Ready? Set, test.

Whether you’re stuck in the process or feel like you might be onto something great, never hesitate to reach outside your organization for some feedback. Who knows—your customers might come up with your next big thing.

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