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Dirty testing

What is dirty testing?

Dirty testing refers to a quick and informal usability testing method where the focus is on gaining rapid feedback rather than following a formal testing process.

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When to use dirty testing?

  • When creating prototypes, especially low-fidelity ones, dirty testing can be used to validate assumptions, test concepts, and gather feedback on the overall usability and functionality
  • In situations where formal usability testing is not feasible, such as in small teams or limited budget projects, dirty testing provides an informal and cost-effective way to gather user feedback and insights.

Benefits of dirty testing

  • Quick Iterations: By incorporating dirty testing into the design process, designers can rapidly iterate and make improvements based on the feedback received. This agile approach helps refine the user experience and address usability issues efficiently.
  • Real-World Context: Dirty testing often takes place in realistic settings or scenarios, allowing for observation of users’ natural behavior and interactions. This provides valuable insights into how users actually engage with a product in their everyday lives.
  • Uncover Hidden Issues: The informal nature of dirty testing can uncover unexpected usability issues or user pain points that may go unnoticed in more formal testing methods. It helps reveal insights that might not be captured through pre-scripted tasks.
  • User-Centered Design: Dirty testing puts the focus on the users and their experiences, ensuring that the design aligns with their needs and expectations. It helps designers create more user-centered and intuitive products.

How to create a dirty test study?

  • Define Objectives: Clearly outline the objectives of the dirty test study. Identify what specific aspects of the product or prototype you want to evaluate or gather feedback on.
  • Recruit Participants: Recruit participants that will participate in the dirty test study. Consider factors such as demographics, expertise, or specific user characteristics relevant to the study objectives.
  • Design Scenarios: Create realistic tasks that participants will perform during the dirty test. These tasks should reflect typical user interactions with the product and align with the study objectives.
  • Prepare Materials: Develop the necessary materials, such as prototypes, mockups, or digital assets, required for the dirty test. Ensure that the materials adequately represent the product or feature being evaluated.
  • Conduct the Dirty Test: Invite participants to engage with the product or prototype while performing the designated tasks. Encourage them to think aloud, share their thoughts, and provide feedback as they navigate through the experience.
  • Observe and Document: Capture both qualitative and quantitative data, such as verbal feedback, user observations, task completion times, or error rates.

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What is the difference between formal and dirty testing?

Formal testing provides more controlled and detailed insights, while dirty testing allows for quick and informal feedback gathering in a more natural setting. 

What tools are needed for dirty testing?

Dirty testing is a flexible and informal approach, requiring minimal tools. Basic tools include prototypes or mockups for user interaction, notepads or note-taking apps for observations, a camera or smartphone for visual documentation, and an interview guide or discussion points for engaging conversations.

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