Don’t Stand So Close To Me: And Other Lessons in User Testing


This week was a high-speed crash course in building wireframes and user testing. Before any of us felt ready, we were showing our wireframes (in this case, draft screens of a banking app) to design professionals. By the following Monday, we had to test our wireframes with five users and present our findings.

Running head-on into an abyss is a common situation at AC4D. As a student, you become used to it. Lessons come almost too fast to internalize. Yet there’s no faster way to test the thing you made than by putting it in the hands of people you don’t know.

I redesigned Ally Bank’s mobile app in order to test 3 different “missions” or flows: checking account balance, depositing a check, and sending money. I drew wireframes on paper, then recreated them in the app Sketch, and finally- used Sketch’s prototyping functions to make a clickable prototype for users.

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 2.54.08 PM
From left to right, the drafting process of making wireframes. The second and third steps were made using Sketch App.

Beer, Wine, and Queso

Together with fellow student Cristina Suazo, we gathered the incentives to draw people to us. There was no time to send out recruitment screeners. Instead we bought a six pack of “Mama Tried” pilsners, a bottle of Chardonnay. We made queso and invited friends to the AC4D studio. We also passed the word to fellow AC4D alumni and their networks. Cristina and I exchanged friends so that we each interviewed users we were unfamiliar with.

User Lessons Learned

My users spanned the ages of 32-48 and used five different banks regularly. See below for more comprehensive demographics.

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 2.54.20 PM
Demographics of my users, their banks, and banking habits

Each user completed three banking missions. To sum up their feedback:

  • “Snapshot,” the home screen, should not appear as a button
  • Users had unclear expectations of the “Explore” button
  • Deposit confirmation doesn’t feel complete enough, present more options, and/or show that the newly deposited money is “on its way”
An example of a user takeaway: deposit confirmation needs improvement
An example of a user takeaway: deposit confirmation needs improvement

Researcher Lessons Learned

Getting feedback for a future revision of wireframes was only half the point of the assignment. The other was to become a better researcher, particularly a better conductor of user interviews. This included the famous words of The Police, and the title of this blog. Full takeaways are below.

Screen Shot 2019-01-28 at 2.54.35 PM
My top three takeaways from week one of user research

To sum up my learned experience: conducting user testing bears similarity to contextual inquiries; get out of the way and get the user/subject talking. Particularly, get users to voice their expectations of what a prototype might do, and encourage them to verbalize confusion, which often presents itself as silence. And finally, sit to the side and slightly behind the user! Don’t stand (or sit) so close to them. Create an environment where the user is free to explore the product on their own terms.

This week we’ll double down on the process: iterating our wireframes and getting new users. My personal mission is to expand the age range of my users, and document how the interaction of users 18-24 and 50+ years experience the Ally mobile app redesign.

A final note: You can view my full presentation and results in this presentation deck.