Skip to content

What Is Preference Testing And How to Do It Right?

 By Userlytics
 Mar 22, 2024
Home  »  Blog   »   What Is Preference Testing And How to Do It Right?

Let’s say you’re developing a new website or mobile app. The exciting part of developing a visual identity is upon you and you’re hesitating between different fonts, colors, typographies, placements of buttons, etc. You choose the one that appears the coolest to you. After all, it’s your website or app, right?

This is where the majority of businesses make a crucial mistake.

What appears cool and functional to you doesn’t necessarily do so for your target audience. So how do you go about making sure that your product resonates with your users before you spend resources into building something destined to fall flat on its face?

Enter Preference Testing. Unlike A/B Testing which tests different variants of a finished product, Preference Tests tap into your user’s minds in the early stages of the design process to ensure you’re on the right track.

In a nutshell, Preference Testing is:

  • It takes place in the early stages of the design process, unlike A/B Tests.
  • It can be performed for an entire page (e.g homepage) or just a smaller part of it (buttons, colors, etc). 
  • The results of Preference Testing can be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively.
  • Quantitative Preference Testing involves users choosing between designs in a specific context while qualitative Preference Testing offers in-depth insights through interviews.

This article will cover the aforementioned points in detail, as well as teach you how to go about conducting your own preference tests effectively. Let’s get started.

What is Preference Testing?

Let’s define Preference Testing more thoroughly first.

Preference Testing, within the context of UX research, refers to a systematic method used to find out about user preferences towards various design elements. 

It involves presenting users with multiple options and gathering feedback to determine which option they prefer and why. The goal of Preference Testing is to inform design decisions and optimize the user experience.

Are Preference Tests Only About Visual Design?

Yes. Preference Testing focuses on users’ subjective preferences, particularly regarding visual design elements.

If you’re interested in testing elements beyond visual design, such as functionality, content presentation, or usability, Concept Validation is the way to go. Unlike Preference Testing, which focuses solely on visual elements, Concept Validation evaluates the overall viability and appeal of a product.

Is Preference Testing Necessary?

Why bother with Preference Tests, you ask? Well, imagine trying to plan a surprise birthday party without knowing the guest of honor’s favorite cake flavor. Nobody likes to shoot in the dark!

Preference Testing is important because it enables you to get a clear picture of your users’ preferences early in the design phase. By understanding what resonates with users and what doesn’t, you can avoid numerous design mistakes.

What Is The Difference Between Preference Testing And A/B Testing?

Preference Testing takes place at the beginning of the design process. A/B Testing takes place at the end of the design process.

Preference Testing and A/B Testing serve different purposes and employ distinct methodologies, yet both are valuable methods in user experience research.

Preference Testing focuses on discovering user preferences early in the process, ensuring that the development team is on the right track.

A/B Testing, on the other hand, compares multiple versions of a finished product and typically occurs towards the end of the development cycle.

While Preference Testing aims to validate design decisions, A/B Testing seeks to generate data on which variation performs better.

A/B Tests are KPI-driven (Key Performance Indicator), with the selected variation based on better outcomes. For example, in an A/B test for an e-commerce website, users may randomly encounter Version A or Version B of a product page. The page that will be retained is the one that generates the highest conversion rate (e.g purchases).

How To Do Preference Testing

Now that we’ve established what Preference Testing is and how it differs from A/B Testing, let’s see how you can go about conducting your own Preference Tests effectively.

How To Do Preference Testing

Define Your Test Objectives And Parameters

Before you kick off your Preference Testing, it’s important to determine your UX research objectives upfront. Are you aiming to find out which design variant users lean towards, or do you want insights into how they perceive each design?

Whatever your aim, articulate it clearly at the beginning of your UX research. By laying out your goals and parameters, you provide a roadmap for both yourself and your UX test participants.

Gather Your Test Variants

Once you’ve defined your test objectives, gather the design variants that you want to test. These variants could include different layouts, color schemes, typography choices, or branding elements. Ensure that each variant represents a distinct approach that you want to explore.

Bear in mind that providing users with more than two to three variants can make it challenging for them to compare effectively. Keep your preference test focused and concise by presenting only your most desired options.

Select The Appropriate Preference Testing Method

Preference Testing can be conducted using either quantitative or qualitative methods. Choose the method that best aligns with your test objectives and the depth of insights you need.

For quantitative Preference Testing, consider using surveys or structured questionnaires. This method provides statistical data and allows for comparisons between different options, making it suitable for assessing overall preferences.

On the other hand, qualitative Preference Testing involves techniques such as interviews, focus groups, or usability testing, where participants provide detailed feedback into their preferences. 

A remote usability testing and UX research tool like Userlytics can streamline the whole research process for you. Our platform is feature rich and will help you get the user experience insights you crave. Features such as the X-Second Test, which provides instant feedback from users to your designs, enable you to conduct Preference Testing directly within the platform.

Recruit Participants

Recruiting the right participants is crucial for obtaining meaningful insights in Preference Testing. First, identify your target audience or user demographic based on the objectives of your test. Consider factors such as age, gender, geographic location, and behavioral characteristics that are relevant to your product. 

Then, use appropriate recruitment channels, such as online panels, social media, or professional networks, to recruit participants who match your target audience. Or, if you choose a UX testing platform that includes a panel, you can use the platform panel for this purpose. Ensure that you have an adequate number of participants to achieve statistical significance and diversity in feedback.

Read: 9 Tips On How To Recruit Participants For A UX Study

Organize Preference Testing Sessions

Once you’ve recruited participants, organize Preference Testing sessions according to your chosen method. Provide clear instructions and context to participants about the purpose of the test and what is expected from them.

Present each design variant to participants and ask them to compare their preferences. Ask follow-up questions and encourage participants to articulate the reasons behind their choices.

Analyze Your Preference Testing Results

After conducting Preference Testing sessions, analyze the collected data and draw your conclusions. Identify patterns and common themes across participant responses.

For quantitative data collected through surveys, analyze the most frequently chosen responses. For qualitative feedback, identify common themes and comparisons among the responses.

If the feedback doesn’t decisively distinguish between your design options, iterate on them and repeat the process until a clear favorite emerges.

Is Preference Testing Enough? What Are Its Limitations?

Keep in mind that Preference Testing alone may not provide a comprehensive understanding of users’ perceptions. Some limitations inherent in Preference Testing may result in an incomplete picture of user preferences. Let’s go over some of those limitations:

  • Bias: Participants in Preference Testing may show biases towards familiar designs. This bias can lead to a preference for conventional designs over innovative solutions or vice versa.
  • Lack of contextual understanding: Preference Testing often focuses solely on users’ subjective preferences and aesthetic appeal, overlooking contextual factors such as user tasks and goals. Without considering these broader contextual elements, you may get an inaccurate impression of what your target audience prefers.
  • Limited insights into user behavior: While Preference Testing can reveal users’ visual preferences, it may not provide insights into their actual behavior with the product. Users may express preferences based on initial impressions or surface-level attributes, but their behavior in real-world scenarios could differ significantly.


Preference Testing is a valuable tool for understanding user preferences early in the UX research and design process. By gathering feedback on design options, it empowers UX researchers and designers to make informed decisions and create products that resonate with their target audience.

However, it’s essential to recognize the limitations of Preference Testing, such as bias and limited insights into user behavior. Supplementing Preference Testing with other UX research methods is key to gaining a comprehensive understanding of user preferences. 

Overall, Preference Testing is an essential component of the UX research process, enabling UX researchers and designers to optimize the user experience and deliver products that meet users’ needs effectively.

If you’re considering using a remote usability and UX research platform to conduct your preference testing research, reach out to us. Our team will be glad to assist you in your UX research endeavors.

About the Author: Mehdi El Taghdouini

Mehdi El Taghdouini

Mehdi is the Head of Content and Communications at Userlytics. He is skilled at writing clear and engaging content on several topics, especially technology and SaaS products. Before joining Userlytics, Mehdi led the content marketing team of the largest Google Cloud and Google Workspace reseller in the Benelux market. He brings six years of experience in managing content for both startups and large companies. Mehdi holds a Bachelor\'s degree in E-Business and enjoys photography in his spare time. His photography projects have been exhibited in Brussels, Hong Kong, and Barcelona, where he now lives.

Connect with Mehdi

Latest Posts

June 3, 2024

The 6 Best UX Testing Tools for UX Research in 2024

Discover the best UX testing tools for 2024. We've compared six options based on price and features to help you find the perfect fit.
Read More
June 20, 2024

AI in UX: The Ultimate Guide To Improve UX With AI

AI in UX. Learn from industry experts about the latest AI technologies and their applications in UX research and design.
Read More
March 5, 2024

The State of UX in 2024

Discover 'The State Of UX In 2024' report: Key insights on UX research evolution, roles of product managers, and future trends.
Read More
August 22, 2023

The Value of Inclusive Digital Experiences

The Value of Inclusive Digital Experiences. Inclusive and accessible products are not just "nice to haves", they are absolutely a MUST.
Read More

Didn’t find what you were searching for?

Ready to Elevate Your UX Game?