After your product works in theory and the office, field tests are indispensable. Depending on the product and market, these tests can be performed by customers, or even by friends or colleagues. But which customer, which friend or colleague is the right one?
The loyal existing customer
Most companies have one or more loyal long-term customers to perform such a first test. They trust each other and can look back to a close customer relationship. What requirements should this customer fulfill? One should test the product carefully, be critical and give continuous feedback.
A potential new customer
It may also be the case that there is a new customer, with whom it is worthwhile to test. This is in most cases a company with great future sales potential for this and/or other products. You might want to be cautious and keep in mind, that any mistake and unreliability could pose a big risk for future business relationships.
Colleagues and Friends
If your project is a product suitable for everyone -not only for specific markets or customers-, it can be quite useful to hand it out to colleagues and friends for testing.
The main goal of a practical test is always to find out, how the product will hold up the market. Are there still malfunctions, how intuitive is the product and what features are still missing? Which functions are not working as desired?
Always plan your tests thoroughly and thoughtfully
To gain as much knowledge from your tests in a preferably short time, a smart preparation of the test procedure is very important.
What needs to be tested? Which values are important? Who is testing? How can a test be best documented?
Any product errors and problems need to be eliminated. If you fix an error, you have to retest this function. This procedure can take a lot of time if you are not well prepared.
I personally take care of my test partners by myself. I can get an idea, how a first hands-on works and what the customer is doing. Product training and instructions can be performed directly. When I am feeling confident, that the product works and the test customer knows, how to handle it, I leave the customer alone working with the product.
When the customer starts to work independently, a continuous exchange of feedback and information is essential. It is the only way to prepare your product for a smooth market introduction.
Sort your feedback – when do I have to react?
During the test phase, you´ll receive loads of feedback from your test partners. One is looking for some additional features, while others might not need already existing features. You´ll always get new ideas and solutions. The good thing is that you still have the opportunity to implement new- or change existing features. However, you need to be careful and decide what´s possible and what´s simply too much for your first release.
I prefer to write down all the feedback I get. I also add, how often test partners are looking for the same functions. After that you can decide, how to prioritize the different points and features. I think about what could be feasible to achieve my release and where I need to collect more feedback and information. Some feedback could also inspire you for new ideas and possibilities. You never know…