Formative and summative evaluations are both types of user experience (UX) research methods. Both involve testing products or services with a designated group of users, gathering feedback, and using that feedback to improve the product or service. However, there are several key differences between the two types of evaluations that must be taken into account when designing an effective UX research strategy.
Formative evaluations are typically conducted early in the development process, as they offer insights into how usable a product is in its current state. During these tests, researchers look at how people interact with a product or service and what their overall experiences are. These tests help designers identify potential problems early on so they can make changes before investing too much time and money into building something that won’t work well for the intended audience. Since formative evaluations focus on usability issues rather than actual results, they don’t necessarily need to be conducted in controlled environments like labs; natural settings where people would use the product or service in real life can also be used if it makes sense from a contextual point of view.