The key to successful integration of user feedback into the software product design is to apply the proper methods at the right point of the development cycle. Variants of User Days differ in the testing method and organizational form. Which User Day variant to select depends on a number of factors such as: the status of the development team, the design questions to be answered, and the preferences of the team concerned.
Basically, there is a choice between "single" and "parallel" tests. Single tests are organized to take place consecutively on separate occasions; parallel tests are carried out together on one day. The advantage of single tests is that the developers have the opportunity to apply what they learn in the course of the tests. This organizational format is therefore particularly suitable for prototypes that are in an early stage of development. In this case, a series of interviews allows the developers to gradually optimize the prototype.
On the other hand, if a completed prototype or executable alpha version is available, then the team must decide whether to invite several users together on one day for testing (Usability Workshop), or whether to carry out consecutive single tests. The advantage of group testing is that multiple user feedback can be gathered in a very short period of time and a final Round Table helps to consolidate feedback from individual users.
The advantage of a Usability Workshop is that a team of developers must commit themselves to only a half day and the character of the workshop allows a more intensive dialog to develop with the customers about the suitability of the product. The roundtable, which follows a parallel testing phase, presents an ideal method of checking the product idea at a very early stage of development.
In comparison, single tests are easier to organize. The risk of a system failure is limited to one customer. However, the tests themselves take place over a longer period of time and the group discussion (Usability Round Table) with the customers cannot take place. The team then has to consolidate the opinions expressed in the absence of the customers.
When choosing the organizational form, the team also has to decide how close they want to emulate the normal working environment of the users or how much control they want to have over the test process. While laboratory tests offer the greatest amount of control over the tasks set and the working environment, testing outside the lab or in parallel test situations allow closer contact between the developers and users during the test phase. On-site testing has the advantage that the prototype or alpha version is exposed to externally controlled requirements of a realistic nature, arising from the customer's working context.
A decision among the various organizational formats must therefore weigh aspects such as the status of the application to be tested, the focus of the User Day, the amount of time available, the number of organizers, the proximity to the user and the proximity to the users working context.
Source: User Day Toolkit