Painted Door Test: Definition, Benefits, Process, and Best Practices

Userpilot Team
7 min readJun 16, 2024

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Are you thinking of launching a new feature for your product but unsure if it’s the right one or if it will be successful?

Then, you need to consider a painted door test. This test allows you to determine, with minimal effort, whether what you have in mind is something your users would be interested in.

This article will examine what a painted door test is and how to carry one out.

TL;DR

  • A painted door test validates new product ideas by tracking user interactions with undeveloped features, gauging interest without full development.
  • A fake door test validates product ideas by measuring user interest and gathering feedback, ensuring efficient resource management before full development.
  • A painted door test helps product managers prioritize high-demand features using user interaction data.
  • Fake door tests offer insights into user behavior and preferences, enhanced by an open-ended suggestion box for qualitative feedback.
  • However, fake door testing can erode trust and cause dissatisfaction, potentially driving users away. It may also yield skewed data from accidental or curiosity-driven clicks, leading to poor decisions.
  • Clearly define the feature’s purpose, functionality, and user value. Use user stories to help you with this.
  • Introduce the feature via an in-app modal, landing page, or email with a clear CTA. Prepare a follow-up message, ensuring the painted door is prominent. Use AI tools like Userpilot’s to create engaging copy.
  • Track user interactions with the painted door using analytics tools. Monitor click-through rates, hover time, and customer feedback to gauge engagement.
  • Analyze collected data for patterns in user behavior, like high click-through rates in specific segments. Use this data-led approach to decide if and when to build and prioritize the feature within your product strategy.
  • Conduct effective painted door tests by using them moderately, combining them with heat maps, segmenting customers, and providing feedback options to gather insights while maintaining user trust and engagement.
  • If you want help with writing engaging copy, monitoring the performance of your painted door test, and collecting customer feedback, you should use Userpilot. Book a demo to learn exactly how Userpilot can help.

What is a painted door test?

A painted door test, also known as a fake door test, is an ingenious user research method designed to validate new product ideas or features to a target audience without fully developing them. This is to ensure they align closely with user expectations.

Imagine this: you paint an enticing door on a wall, inviting users to open it, but behind it, there’s nothing — yet. The test gauges user interest and expectations by tracking clicks or interactions with this “fake” door.

How does painted door testing work?

Before launching a new feature, painted door testing can save time and resources by gauging user interest. Here’s how it works:

  1. Create a pop-up, modal, or landing page: Highlight the new feature with a clear call-to-action (CTA) button. For example, a SaaS company might use a modal saying, “Try our new advanced analytics feature!” with a prominent “Learn More” button.
  2. Redirect users after they click on the CTA: Inform them that the feature has yet to launch but will be available soon. This way, you politely say, “Oops, it’s not ready yet, but stay tuned!”
  3. Monitor interactions and engagement: Track the number of users who click the CTA to determine interest. High click rates indicate strong demand, while minimal interaction suggests the feature might need more refinement or isn’t necessary.
An example of a painted door test from Buffer
An example of a patined door test from Buffer.

How do painted door tests help product managers?

A painted door test allows you to gauge interest in a new product feature or idea without fully developing it. Here are some ways that they can help product managers.

Validate product ideas before full-scale development

One of the primary benefits of a painted door test is their ability to validate product ideas before moving into full-scale product development.

Imagine you have an idea for a new feature that you think will be a game-changer. Instead of jumping into development, you can create a painted door to measure user interest first and analyze the insights gained.

You can gauge initial interest in the concept by tracking how many users click on the painted door. High click rates indicate strong interest, while low click rates suggest the feature may not be as valuable as you thought.

Developing new features is resource-intensive. A painted door test helps you avoid the risk of product failure and resource mismanagement. By early testing, you ensure your development efforts are directed toward users’ desired features.

Prioritize features to build

By analyzing user interactions with painted doors, product managers can prioritize features that show high demand, ensuring alignment with customer needs.

When users engage with these painted doors, it becomes evident which features they are most interested in. This data-driven approach lets product managers focus on high-impact features, driving user satisfaction and product success.

Collect valuable insights through user feedback

A painted door test provides product managers invaluable insights into user behavior and preferences.

By observing how users interact with these tests, you can clearly understand what they find valuable. This is more than just numbers; it’s about understanding the why behind user actions.

To gather qualitative insights, include an open-ended suggestion box alongside your painted door tests. This allows users to share their thoughts and ideas in their own words, providing greater depth to your data.

Drawbacks of fake door testing

Fake door testing can sometimes lead to customer dissatisfaction, as users may feel deceived when they click on a feature that doesn’t exist.

This feeling of being misled can erode trust and negatively impact the overall user experience, potentially leading to frustration and dissatisfaction. It can drive users away from your product or service in extreme cases.

Additionally, this method can result in skewed data. Some users might click on the fake feature out of curiosity or by accident, which means the data collected may not accurately reflect genuine interest in the feature. This bias can lead to incorrect conclusions and poor decision-making.

How to conduct a painted door test?

Conducting a painted door test involves several key steps to ensure you gather insights while maintaining a positive user experience. Here’s a guide to help you execute this testing method effectively.

Clearly define the feature to test

First, clearly define the feature you want to test. Determine its purpose, functionality, and potential value to users.

Creating user stories can help define what the feature is supposed to achieve and how it will benefit users.

An example of a user story template
A user story template.

Create the painted door

Next, decide how you will introduce the feature. Options include an in-app modal, a landing page, or an email, each with a clear call to action button or link to measure clicks.

Prepare a follow-up message to inform users that the feature is not yet available. Ensure the placement of this painted door is prominent and not hidden away in a corner. Consider using an AI writing assistant like Userpilot’s to write attractive copy that encourages user interaction.

An animation showing the AI assistant in Userpilot to create copy for you
Creating copy with AI in Userpilot.

Monitor the performance of the fake door test

Use analytics tools to track user interactions with the painted door. Monitor metrics such as click-through rates, time spent hovering over the element, and customer feedback. These metrics will help you understand how users engage with the potential feature.

A screenshot of the flow analytics report from Userpilot
Monitoring performance with Userpilot.

Analyze the results and make a decision

Finally, the data collected will be analyzed to look for patterns in user behavior, such as high click-through rates for a specific segment. This analysis will help you take a data-led approach, whether to build the feature, when to prioritize it, and how it fits into your overall product strategy.

Best practices for conducting effective painted door tests

When conducting effective painted door tests with new users, a few best practices can help you gather valuable insights while maintaining a positive user experience.

  • Moderation: To maintain user trust, avoid overusing painted door tests. Excessive non-functional features can lead to skepticism and reduced user engagement.
  • Use heat maps: Combine painted door tests with heatmaps to track the times users hover over the feature.
  • Segment customers: Different user segments may show varying interest levels in a new feature. Segmenting data helps identify which groups are more interested in a specific feature and tailor future development efforts accordingly.
  • Provide feedback options: Allow users to leave feedback after interacting with a painted door. This feedback offers direct insights into users’ thoughts and helps build trust and foster a sense of community.

Conclusion

Painted door tests can be a great way to validate your new product features without wasting precious resources. They are easy to set up and get running for your user base.

If you want to get started with your fake doors, Userpilot can help you create the copy for them with its AI assistant, monitor how many people are clicking on it, and provide you with a way to gather feedback. If you want to get started on your own painted door tests, book a Userpilot demo now.

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Userpilot Team

Userpilot is a Product Growth Platform designed to help product teams improve product metrics through in-app experiences without code. Check out userpilot.com