The RITE Method
As soon as you find yourself having endless design discussions, it probably means that there are too many assumptions made, and insights from the users are missing. The RITE (Rapid Iterative Test and Evaluation) method offers a framework to quickly test a prototype in an iterative manner.
Several frameworks provide structured prototype testing:
These methods have in common that they use the prototype to quickly find answers and insights before investing too much time and effort. They identify assumptions, insights, and prototype issues and often follow a more quick and dirty approach with fake or paper prototypes. The focus is to answer critical questions and test the riskiest assumptions rather than creating a perfect design.
An example assumption can be “users appreciate a chat function.” It is not about the design or the detail - just add an example chat and observe how users react. After one or two user-tests/interviews, the design is re-evaluated. There are two questions to answer: does the current design provide an answer (or are other design decisions interfering), and is the assumption validated?
“The goals of the Rapid Iterative Test and Evaluation (RITE) method are to identify and fix as many issues as possible and to verify the effectiveness of these fixes in the shortest possible time.”
- Michael C. Medlock, Dennis Wixon, Mick McGee, Dan Welsh
The main benefits in short:
- Enriching design insights even before the design phase really started.
- Prevent endless discussions by not getting blindsided about already creating the perfect product without fully understanding the users’ needs.
- Engaging approach for all team members: Everyone plays a role in the research and design phase. It optimizes the transfer of insights and results between all involved parties.
- Embrace an agile environment and prevent too much investment before exploring issues and the experience of users.
Remote Applied RITE
The Rapid Iterative Testing and Evaluation (RITE) method challenges designers’ and researchers’ strength in an intense timeboxed way of collaboration. In the following, we will describe how we applied the method in a remote working environment and summarize what we’ve learned from it.
20 Minuten approached PUX to explore why their new feature, the 20 Minuten NOW! player, was not gaining the expected popularity. This new feature shows news-items in short videos, following the trend of video-driven products like TikTok, Instagram stories, Facebook stories, and so on.
20 Minuten has a data-driven and dynamic way of working. Research is often seen as a blocker – a black box where a request goes in and, at some point in the very far future, results come out. We embraced their culture and decided to follow the RITE method and work closely with their PM and designer. We took six weeks to go through two qualitative research cycles (a round of exploratory interviews, followed by the RITE method).
During the exploratory interviews, we bumped into the wall of remote work. It was only possible to use the live 20 Minuten app and the connected and published NOW! player to explore the relevant user experience and needs. This lead to several challenges; how to test an app available only on smartphones, remotely, during a video call, with participants that are often tech-not-so-savvy? How to get the best value with the right amount of effort?
After some puzzling and experimenting, we set up the exploratory interviews as follows: one person would interview, and another would share the phone screens while using the app (only reacting to the interviewee’s commands, pretending it was them who controlled it).
With the RITE method, the evaluation afterward plays a bigger role. Asking questions, managing the prototype based on how the users pretend to control it, and then taking notes on the spot is an impossible multitasking challenge. The great collaboration with the 20 Minuten designer, who joined every interview, made it possible to quickly translate insights into prototype changes between the interviews.
The project team, including our 20 Minuten colleagues, gained clear answers on why the current NOW!-player is not as popular as expected, what the needs of the users are, and how to improve the design to answer those needs. We also learned a great deal about remote user testing again. And the value of a close collaboration between designers and researchers - a match made in heaven.
The current challenge of the 20 Minuten Team is to convince stakeholders who already had their minds set on their individual preferences.
We should always validate qualitative insights. 20 Minuten is data-driven and therefore took over this validation by publishing new designs and tracking the user data.
The main learnings by the PUX Researchers on applying RITE in a remote setting
- When a company or team is suspicious about dedicating resources to research in their product process, a fast and effective method such as RITE can be just the right way to gain quick results and ensure the satisfaction of everybody involved. For us, this very quick and iterative approach was the way to fit in the company’s general approach to development. It felt like the best result-oriented solution for the question posed by the stakeholders.
- Remote user interviews and testing take time for setting up, and most often, interviewees are not tech-savvy. Therefore, take your time to prepare, but also inform the interviewee of what to expect at the start. For example, we spent a considerable amount of time explaining to users how to ‘fake use’ an app that is screenshared by a researcher.
- The exploratory nature of the qualitative interviews of the RITE method can make us researchers want to fill the “blind spots.” When conducting remote user tests, prevent answering a “what happens if I click that?”-question with an explanation. Follow up with more questions to keep the exploratory nature of the test. Silence can also be very informative if the researcher really observes and carefully listens to the user. Embrace to let it get “as awkward as possible”, before actually answering a question (rather than asking a question back instead) or breaking the silence.
- The RITE method is perfect when the team has questions about the prototype, but the questions are not very detailed/specific or mainly design-oriented.
- The close collaboration between researchers and designers enabled us to process feedback that we collected during the interviews very rapidly. Having a designer sit in during user interviews and have him ask questions to the users directly has been a great advantage. The 20 Minuten designer understood his prototype very well and knew where to dig deeper and ask the user more design-concentrated questions. A designer addressing these important topics led to new research questions again. This is a great aspect of the collaborative dynamic during the interviews.
- Talking to just five users can already give valuable insights about aspects of the feature that need to be iterated: “you don’t need to throw ten glasses to see that they break.”
- When applying the RITE method, it is important to track every change. Before we knew it, there was a different prototype, and we could have lost track of the evidence and insights.
- Besides learning a lot about the method and its application, we also learned a lot about our work and were able to reflect on our Research chapter’s internal functioning. Hesham had just joined, and as the newbie of the team, he had been handed the 20 Minuten RITE project to start off successfully within the team and learn about our own processes. Of course, everything had to be done remotely. For Roos, as the lead of the research chapter, some new questions emerged when attending his first remote user interviews as a “ghost participant” and guiding him through the project. I started to think about how to balance the many tips that she could share vs. letting the valuable learning effect happen by letting them make their own mistakes.
The PUX Team has also recorded a remote UX Discussion on the collaboration between Research and Design and interviewed Hesham and Christoph, the responsible UX Designer of 20 Minuten, about the above-introduced topic!
Roos and Hesham (UX Researcher, PUX Team)
In the monthly Product and UX letter the PUX team shares insights about projects, interviews with product gurus and personal anecdotes inside and outside the TX group: