Deprivation Testing Aids in Product Design

When most companies create a new design, they test it with sample users before its released to the public.  Generally, the new product design with its added features are given to a person, and they are asked how they like it.  GitHub, a software development company, recently started implementing a unique approach to its design…

When most companies create a new design, they test it with sample users before its released to the public.  Generally, the new product design with its added features are given to a person, and they are asked how they like it.  GitHub, a software development company, recently started implementing a unique approach to its design testing.  Instead of asking for feedback on new additions, they started asking for feedback on things that had been taken away.

Wait, What?

This new methodology called deprivation testing, already used by tech giants like Mozilla, is done over the course of several days.  A new product that has new features is introduced on the first day.  After users get used to the new design, those new features are taken away from them.  The analysts then gauge the users’ reactions.  Did they miss the new features?  Were they upset about having to go back to the old version?  Did they even prefer the old version?

What’s the Benefit?

Analysts find that taking away features forces users to adjust their habits, and people can be remarkably adaptable.  This is a great way to really assess the impact that the design change had since you can watch the user adopt it and then learn to live without it.  Even if the user reports that they couldn’t notice a difference between the two designs, the feedback can be valuable.  That might indicate that the design change was extremely fluid.  It may also show that what designers thought was going to be a radical shift was actually not especially impactful to the consumer.

New vs. Old

This kind of study is especially useful when you have a consumer base of both old and new users.  That way you can see who is struggling to learn the product for the first time and who is having difficulty with the new design features.  It’s a way of leveling the design playing field, and it may revolutionize the way product testing is done.

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