3 Ways to User Test a Mobile Game Without Breaking the Bank
User research and testing is an invaluable practice for mobile game developers. In some cases, it can even mean the difference between failure and success.
So why do so many developers do a shoddy job of testing?
The overall sentiment of testing is that it’s both expensive and time-consuming. That’s not always wrong. Supercell, for one, sank hundreds of employee hours into testing Clash of Clans, and pro-level testing can require complicated multi-camera setups to convert human reactions into data.
The good news is that less costly efforts can be effective, too—and even serve as the first step in a game’s user acquisition strategy.
Here are three tips to help devs start testing without breaking the bank:
1. Use existing connections
A common and time-consuming problem related to user testing is gathering enough testers. The solution? Look close to home.
At the earliest stage of user testing, devs should approach friends and family first. UsabilityHub’s Tristan Gamilis gives advice for testing with family and friends: “Tell your participants that you are testing the interface, not testing them. Remind them that this is a work in progress and that it’s okay to make mistakes.”
And when they do give constructive criticism? “Don’t be defensive!” Gamilis says. “Critical feedback can be harder to take from people we’re close to, so remember that they’re doing you a favor and be receptive to whatever they say.”
For mobile game devs who already have a reputation, using their existing community should closely follow friends and family testing. Devs are sometimes shy to reach out to players of their previous games or fans of the studio, but this shouldn’t be the case: Fans feel privileged to get an early look at the next game, even if it’s a buggy mess. And if devs’ email lists and Facebook pages haven’t been updated in awhile, this is a perfect time to improve them.
2. Preparation is key
As devs scale up their testing, keeping a script or mental outline of materials like explanations, instructions and questions will save time and increase data accuracy. For example, a confusing briefing may be the reason players don’t understand how to play the game.
For any tester, the questions devs ask should reflect how many testers they think they can find. Gamilis offers the example of open-ended questions about the look and feel of a menu. Among a small group of three testers he says, “[If] all mention that it looks confusing and complex, then you can be quite confident that this is an issue that will affect many real users.” On the other hand, a test in which users are asked to consider several choices will probably require a larger sample size.
3. Plant seeds among strangers
At some point, the people devs have already connected with won’t be enough. When this happens, it’s time to find some inexpensive testers. Devs can go online to sites like Upwork, Fiverr and Craigslist, which all offer low-cost gig postings. Or go guerrilla, and step outside the office and find testers in any location where people like to pass time—this could be the park, mall or coffee shop.
This stage of testing should be where the devs’ marketing list experiences its first growth spurt: Every tester who shows any interest in the game should be added to the list. Devs should tell them that they’ll keep them updated with development news—and they should follow through. Fans gained at this point feel a personal connection with the game and will be among the most vocal supporters once it releases.