Category C: Experience testing

Category C: Experience testing

What is it?

An experience test is to examine an experience through an analysis of user behavior and personal experience. The method is a combination of observations, ethnoraids and short semi-structured interviews. Experience testing can be used to identify the value of different components of an experience and uncover any need for changes.

Experience testing is suitable for understanding user experience, including whom they are, why they are using the experience, if they have done it before, where they know of it, their beliefs and needs, and what they actually appreciate about the experience. It can also uncover what they think could be done better. Experience testing provides a qualitative investigation into users’ experience and can qualify and complement further inquiries using ethnographic methods.

How is it done?

Choose the experience

Find the date, time and place of the experience you want to test. Consider if there is a more adequate time, e.g. if there are more users present. Compose a loosely structured interview guide with 5-7 topics you want to cover. There may be some especially important topics to focus on depending on the nature of the experience.

Conduct the experience test

Follow the other users. Do short on-the-spot interviews and take notes/photos, which can be used to evaluate the experience. Ensure that you are there on the same terms as the other guests; you might not otherwise get an accurate image of the composition of the experience.

Evaluate the feedback from the guests, your impressions and the documentation

Immediately after the experience testing, you should discuss which parts of the experience were mentioned positively and which parts were mentioned negatively. Write down the key points and pick direct quotes to support them. You can gather the challenges and recommendations from this material and the general view of the experience it brings.

What does it take?

Time frame

The method requires at least 1 hour for preparation of questions and camera; and then subsequently the duration of the experience. You should set aside 1-2 hours for analysis and evaluation.


  • Interview guide with loosely structured questions for on-the-spot interviews.
  • Camera for documentation.
  • Notebook for notes along the way.
  • A computer for analyzing the material and formulating key points, challenges and recommendation.


The method takes 1-2 employees. They don’t necessarily need to have any specific skills. The method is furthered by an empathic and attentive approach towards the experience.



Fred is the manager of music venue. He wants to find out how the guests know about the venue and be sure the marketing is working optimally. He is also very interested in the younger audience and wants to know what this target group thinks of the venue and the music. He decides to do experience testing to shed some light on the situation.


First he chooses a concert and two unaffiliated friends to do an experience test. There is an upcoming concert, which is sold out, and Fred is certain there will be quite a few young people. His two friends, Morgan and Jack, goes to the concert, stands in line with the other guests, use the wardrobe, buys from the bar and listens to the music on equal terms with the other guests. They conduct on-the-spot interviews about the venue, how people have heard about it, if there is something special they like or dislike, if they have used the venue’s website, and if something could be improved. Along the way they take notes on the behavior of the guests and take pictures for documentation. They notice that many of the guests have heard about the concert through the venue’s newsletter, and that especially the young people think it is a great place. Several people mention that they hadn’t heard of the place before a friend recommended it, and that the selection of beers in the bar isn’t adequate to meet their needs.


After the experience test, Morgan and Jack write their last comments and points and gather their photos. They go through the material and establish the points they agreed on. From here, Morgan and Jack gather the negative statements as a list of challenges and the positive statements as recommendations. They find some good quotes, which support their main point and also use the photos as a visual tool in the presentation to Fred.


The insights from the experience test informs Fred of the possibility of using the newsletter more actively as a key part of their communication but also to place posters for the venue. This will allow for a greater exposure in the city. He also learned that the younger audience like the place but are missing a greater selection of beers in the bar. Because of the insights gained from the experience test, he has a list with some good spots to advertise the venue and some directions on which beers to acquire for the bar.

More on the method

Experience testing is especially effective in combination with focus group interviews, structured interviews and questionnaires .