BERT – an alternative way to get feedback on your designs

A couple of BertsBERT is a form of testing that has nothing to do with people called Bert; it’s actually a useful way of getting subjective design feedback from users. It can be used for comparing different designs against each other, as well as against competitors and BERT can also be used as a way of identifying how you, and your customers, perceive your brand.

BERT stands for Bipolar Emotional Response Testing and gives you a way to really understand what users think of your designs.

The problem with just asking people for their comments on your design is that you’ll get answers like “it’s nice”, or “I like it”. Even if you can get people to describe their thoughts in more detail you’ll end up with a wide range of different answers which can be hard to analyse.

Using BERT will give you a good way to collate all of these opinions and clearly see what your testing group feel about your design. It will also enable you to measure the changes in perception that a new design will bring.

So, what the hell is it?

Believe it or not, BERT is actually a fairly simple technique. Firstly you’ll need to identify some areas of your design that you’re interested in capturing people’s opinion. The next step is to ask them to rate your design between two opposite words. To give an example, if you want to find out how formal users feel a design is then your polar extremes might be ‘formal’ and ‘friendly’. The example below shows how a BERT test may look:


Example of a BERT test

As I said at the start of this post – BERT can be used in a variety of ways. We’ve used it internally to get an idea of how we all perceive the No Pork Pies brand in general but it’s more commonly used to evaluate and compare designs. This can be used at the start of a design process where you, or your client, can plot on the chart how they would like people to feel about the new design before you ask real users to give their opinions. If the two match then that’s great but if the company in question wants to appear ‘cutting edge’ but the users see the design as more ‘traditional’ then you may need to go back to the drawing board.

After enough users (5-10 is a good number) have completed the BERT test you can analyse the results. Don’t be surprised to see conflicting answers, one man’s ‘professional’ can be another man’s ‘amateur’. You should see some clear patterns but if not then you might want to consider testing with more users. You can then cluster the answers together on a graph to see what the general consensus is.

BERT results

When you have some clarity in your finds you can then compare to how you/your client wants to look and make changes accordingly. If your test group isn’t getting that ‘professional’ vibe that you wanted then you might want to switch from using Comic Sans to something more appropriate.

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