What Is Usability Testing
Usability testing is a way to test how intuitive the design, user flows and content is in your product, app or website. This form of testing consists of asking real people who are similar to potential users to perform various tasks on your product. You can use the information gained from this exercise to identify opportunities for improvement in your product’s design, user flows and content.
Here is a collection of examples on how to test the usability of your product in a variety of scenarios.
Usability testing lessons learned
When I was the product owner for AgileAlliance.org, I got some indications that people found it hard to find resources on the site. I didn’t have a lot of insight into the difficulties they were having so I needed to collect some additional information. Here’s how I tested the usability of AgileAlliance.org to better understand how people use Agile Alliance’s website and some lessons I learned as a result.
How Uptech conducts usability testing
Uptech conducts usability tests to obtain information on how potential users interact with the product and provide their clients with a deep analysis of their audience’s preferences. Here’s an explanation about how they do it.
3 real-life usability testing examples based on actual products
Get a feel for what an actual test looks like with three real-life examples from Typeform, ElectricFeel, and Movista. You’ll learn about these companies’ test scenarios, the types of questions and tasks these designers asked, and the key things they learned.
Usability Testing Case Studies from VWO
For the best results testing usability, you have to tailor the tests, so they match your product, market, platform, and your ideal customers. In this extensive post VWO explains usability testing and provides examples for several scenarios: eCommerce, SaaS, company website, and a food delivery app. The case studies are located about halfway through the post.
When to Do Usability Testing
Teams typically test usability while creating a new product to make sure you’re creating a product that is intuitive and makes sense to your users.
You can also test the usability of an existing product to identify areas for improvement.
Whether you are testing a new or existing product, you’ll get the best results if you test multiple times during the development process. Here is how you may test usability at different points while developing your product:
Before you start designing
If you’re working on a new product, you can test competing products. This will give you a feel for how people use tools similar to what you’re planning in real life. The results from this testing provides a basis of comparison for when you test your own designs.
If you’re working on an existing product, you can perform some initial testing to understand your users’ pain points to identify areas for improvement. The results from this testing also provides a basis of comparison for when you test the redesign of your product.
Once you have a wireframe or prototype
As soon as you have your initial ideas sketched out, even if it’s a sketch on paper, it’s a good idea to show it to some members of your target audience to get feedback. Doing testing at this point helps you avoid heading down the wrong path.
While you’re working on your prototypes you may also want to perform some card sorting exercises to understand how your target audience groups and associates information.
Prior to the launch of the product
As soon as you have your product developed, you can supplement the feedback you get from sprint reviews by testing the actual product in a non production environment. This gives you a chance to identify any usability issues that are only apparent when someone uses your product.
At regular intervals after launch
Once you launch your product, it’s a good idea to continue user testing. This gives you the opportunity to see if changes in your user base identifies new usability challenges with your product. It also identifies any issues that may arise in scenarios that you didn’t think of during your initial usability testing.
Why Do Usability Testing
You test usability to uncover problems, discover opportunities, and learn about users.
VWO identifies eight benefits that explain why you want to test the usability of your product:
- Get real feedback before launching your product
- Find and eliminate onboarding bottlenecks
- Identify user issues with completing tasks
- Get a better understanding of your customers and their needs
- Save time on the development process
- Use the data to solve design debates and break ties
- Get new ideas for solving design problems
- Create a better user experience
How to Do Usability Testing
When you perform usability testing, you act as a facilitator who provides participants a series of tasks to perform with your product. As the participants perform those tasks ask them to provide feedback on the user interface and any reactions they have while using your product.
Following are a couple of resources that explain in more detail how to test the usability of your product.
How to conduct a usability test in six steps from start to finish
Whether you give your users access to a website, a mobile app, or another software product, you’ll want to test testing usability before you launch. Sophia Brooke put together this guide to acquaint you with the essentials of how to test the usability of your product.
- Build a prototype or a product to test
- Draft the test plan
- Recruit test participants
- Perform the test
- Document the test results
- Correct issues and enhance the performance
How to do remote Usability Testing
You should try to test usability in person whenever possible. In-person testing allows you to read your participant’s body language and gain a better understanding of their overall experience.
However it can sometimes be difficult to get participants to your physical testing site, or in person contact may not be a safe option when you want to do testing. In those cases, remote usability is a viable option. Remote testing is like traditional usability testing except that the participant and facilitator are in two different physical locations; the participant interacts with your design in their own environment, physically separated from the facilitator.
The folks from Adobe explain everything you need to know about testing usability remotely and how to run effective, insightful, and objective remote user tests.
Caveats and Considerations
Pay attention to how you describe the tasks
According to the folks at Nielsen Norman group, task wording is very important when testing the usability of your product. The way you describe the task can cause your participants to misunderstand what you’re asking them to do or can influence how they perform the task. You’ll want to decide if it’s better to deliver task instructions verbally or in written form.
Facilitate, don’t lead
As a facilitator, you have to balance getting high-quality useful data from your usability tests without accidentally “leading” the participant. The folks from the Interaction Design Foundation provide these tips to keep you from leading your participants:
- Let users struggle, don’t over moderate
- Use pauses and silence if you need to
- Do not leave too much silence during task – say okay often
- Say “Okay” and “uh-huh” to fill in gaps
- Use a monotone tonality with users
- Ask “reverse questions”: Is this what you expect to find there?
Avoid these common mistakes
The folks from VWO identified these 9 common usability testing mistakes you want to avoid:
- Starting Too Late – don’t wait until you release your product to start usability testing.
- Narrow Testing Group – identify the whole spectrum of your target audience.
- Not Specifying Metrics – identify the questions you want to answer and metrics you want to measure before you start testing
- Using the Wrong Questions – make sure to ask the right questions to get the data you’re looking for.
- Not Combining Different Methods – pick the right type of usability test for the purposes of your tests.
- Rushing the Process – avoid the temptation to just get a test up and running as quickly as you can. Take the time to get the right participants, tasks, and questions.
- Trying to Test Too Much – instead of trying to test everything, focus on your essential task flows, pages, and features.
- Misinterpreting the Data – be careful to not get swayed by the experience of a single participant. Look at what the trends are telling you.
- Not Implementing the Results – the purpose of usability testing is not the testing. It’s the improvements to your product that you identify as a result of doing the usability testing.
A beginner’s guide to user and usability tests
Hotjar put together a guide to usability testing. The guide starts with an introduction to what is (and isn’t) usability testing; then it describes different testing methods, the usability questions they can help you answer, how to run a usability test session, how to analyze and evaluate your testing results. Finally, the guide wraps up with 12 checklists and templates to help you run efficient usability sessions.
UX, UI, and Usability – What They Are & How They Differ
A website has to be useful and meet the needs of users. Most businesses offer a way to learn more about or order products and services. Great start! But to truly excel as a digital all-star, a business must also excel in usability, user interface (UI), and user experience (UX).
Often these terms are used interchangeably, but they are managed and measured differently. Abdul Suleiman explains how you can you master these three areas to take your website from functional to aspirational.
NNG – Usability Testing
The Nielsen Norman Group put together this guide to provide an overview of the popular observational methodology to uncover problems and opportunities in designs.
Interaction Design Foundation – Usability Testing
The Interaction Design Foundation put together this constantly-updated definition of Usability Testing and collection of topical content and literature.
The complete guide to usability testing
Usability testing is a proven method to evaluate your product with real people. In this guide, the folks from Maze Design share everything you need to know to run usability tests and get actionable insights to create better user experiences.
VWO’s Guide to Usability Testing
Usability testing helps you understand how real people use your product at every step of the development process. But it’s not just a tool to help your design and development teams make decisions. It enables you to build a better product that appeals to and works better for more people.
The folks at VWO explain how to tailor usability tests to your product and your target market, and avoid common mistakes like starting too late or not selecting a varied testing group that covers your bases.
User testing vs usability testing
There is some confusion as to whether usability and user testing are the same thing, completely different or one is a type of the other. Vipul Mishra described the difference between the two types of testing like this: User testing tells you whether your users need your app. Usability testing tells you whether your users can use your app.
A comprehensive guide to user testing
Christopher Murphy provides an overview of various user testing approaches. His main point is user testing should be happening at every point in the process as an integral part of an iterative design process. With that thought in mind, it’s important to establish a structured framework for user testing throughout the design process
User testing (actually usability testing) explained
Although adding to the confusion between user testing and usability testing by using the two terms interchangeably, Jerry Cao provides a good description of different ways to approach usability testing. He includes a helpful comparison between moderated and unmoderated approaches to usability testing.
User testing (what, why, and how)
Als Aerts also refers to usability testing as user testing, but she provides a good summary of why you should do this type of testing, whatever you call it:
- Experts don’t know everything, so ask your users.
- Facts trump opinions
- Ignoring your own users [clients] is difficult
- Convincing and durable proof