The Test Tube – Speed Dating meets User Experience Testing

One of the things I love about working out of WeWork Labs is coming across people in the technology world I wouldn’t normally meet, and finding out about what they’re up to. A couple of the members here run a meetup called The Test Tube (twitter at @testtubenyc). Its elevator pitch is ‘Speed Dating meets User Experience Testing’ which at first sounded like something I wouldn’t be that interested in. Other WeWorkers (yeah, I just did that, sorry) were highly complimentary of it though so I decided to try it out. And I’m very glad I did.

To set a little context here – I’m working on a brand new product with a friend of mine. We’re about 3 weeks in and have a very early, very rough, prototype of a small amount of what we want in the MVP. I thought it was too nascent to be able to get user feedback on but I was convinced by Pierre Wooldridge, one of the Test Tube organizers, to try out his meetup anyway.

Taking place this time at Gilt’s office in midtown about 50 people were there. After brief introductions and a short talk from one of Gilt’s UX people we got down to business. Here’s how it works:

  • Everyone there is organized into a first pair, who I’ll refer to as Ms Green and Mr Red.
  • Ms Green has 7 minutes to get feedback on her product from Mr Red.
  • Ms Green starts by giving the briefest context possible, and by describing the scenario she’d like Mr Red to try to work through.
  • Mr Red then uses the product, vocalizing his thought process as he goes.
  • When there’s about a minute left they’ll try to summarize the experience.
  • Ms Green and Mr Red then swap roles, giving Mr Red 7 minutes to get feedback on his product from Ms Green.
  • After both people have gone through the process all pairs are rotated (a strict clock is kept in the room) and the process is repeated 4 more times, giving each person 5 different opportunities to get feedback.

I’ve never done user experience (UX) testing before with people I didn’t already know and found the process absolutely fascinating. Even with the extremely raw product we currently have there was enough there for our opposites to give what in their minds were just their first feelings but in ours’ was insightful feedback. As an example from 4 of the 5 rotations one of the most basic assumptions that I’d already made about the product, which affects the very first screen of the application, turned out not to fit people’s expectations.

One of the truly brilliant aspects of The Test Tube is the time constraint. Not knowing the people you’re sitting with could lead to social awkwardness and hesitancy. But with only 7 minutes you’ve got no time for that and so you’re forced to plough straight in. Furthermore since there’s only 15 minutes per pair you can get 5 completely different sets of feedback in less than an hour and a half – brilliant!

I’d like to congratulate Pierre and Tom on a fantastic idea, well executed. I’d whole heartedly recommend The Test Tube to other NYC software product developers, whether in startups or established businesses.

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