7 tips for getting started with content testing

It’s easier than you think.

Sarah Kessler
3 min readNov 15, 2022
A person with a laptop sitting in front of a big screen with a lot of text and a robotic arm.
Image by vectorjuice on Freepik

1. Content testing is like brushing your teeth

Any amount of testing is better than no testing at all. And if you don’t do it regularly, you’re going to end up with a big problem. So don’t get hung up on whether or not you’re doing it exactly “right” when you’re starting out. And don’t think of testing as an “extra” step at the end. Test early. Test often!

2. Get some participants… any participants

In an ideal world, you could test with some actual users, or people in a similar demographic. But let’s be realistic, that’s not always an option.

If you can’t talk to your actual users, try talking to literally anyone else. In a pinch, you can use your roommate, a friend, or even a random person you just met. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing (remember tip #1?).

3. Don’t stress about making mistakes

Mistakes are how we learn! Keep on practicing and you’ll get better at it as you go. And if you get results you weren’t expecting? That’s not a mistake. That just means you learned something you wouldn’t have known about without testing.

4. Copy testing is a lot more than AB tests

AB tests are awesome. They help you understand what performs best and can be a great way to increase conversions or whatever your KPIs are. But, you can really only do AB tests when you have a real product with lots of users already. So what do you do if you’re building something new, or working on a spec project?

Try a different type of test like usability testing, or something copy-specific like highlighter or cloze testing.

5. Piggyback with a designer

Is there a designer working with you on this project? Maybe even more than 1 designer? Odds are the designer is already doing some usability testing. If that’s happening, you’re in luck! Usability testing can tell you a lot about the content too.

Make sure your copy is in the design before it goes off to be tested. The usability tests will yield more reliable results, and you can see how real people interact with your writing. Did they stumble or need to read something a few times, or did they go through the whole flow smoothly?

Contribute to the test script. You might have some valuable input on what questions to ask and how to ask the questions.

Even if it’s not your copy and you didn’t get to help with the test script, join the test sessions (or watch them later). Your perspective as a writer is different than the designer’s, so you might notice things that they don’t.

6. Usability testing isn’t just for designers

You can run your own usability tests without help from a designer. All you need is the product or a prototype to share with some testers. Have them go through a flow and share their thoughts along the way. Ask questions to see what they understood about your copy. It can be a pretty effective way to test for comprehension around complex topics.

But never ask, “did you understand?” People are terrible at judging their own comprehension. Often they’ll say yes when they totally missed the point, and sometimes they’ll even say no when they got it 100%.

7. Use a simple framework and share your results

All that testing you did won’t make a difference if you don’t share what you learned with the rest of your team. Get actionable results by recording responses and your insights in a clear and accessible way. Try using the Rainbow Framework.



Sarah Kessler

User experience writer—Improving the world one word at a time