Usability Testing

Usability Testing involves allowing real-life users to test a product or service for evaluation and feedback; this helps businesses ensure their users will have the best customer experience.

Usability Testing involves allowing real-life users to test a product or service for evaluation and feedback; this helps businesses ensure their users will have the best customer experience.

Before releasing any product or service to the general public, it’s essential to test it out first to see what works and needs improvement. Usability testing provides the opportunity to gather qualitative and quantitative data on how the product performs.

Projections and estimations can only get you so far in performance evaluation, which is where usability testing comes in. This article will review how usability testing works, why it’s important, and how to conduct a usability test.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is the evaluation of an interface through testing by its representative users. This involves asking real-life people to use the product, while also observing their corresponding reactions and behaviors in real-time. Afterward, users can provide feedback on the product, including what worked well and what didn’t.

The Nielsen Norman Group identifies three general goals for usability testing:

  1. Identifying design problems
  2. Uncovering opportunities for improving user experience
  3. Learning the target audience’s responses and preferences

Usability testing differs from A/B testing in that you are testing a singular version of a product or service, and observing reactions and behaviors. Most importantly, it also shows you clearly why a product or service is or isn’t working.

Why is Usability Testing Important?

Usability testing herpes business to identify any flaws or errors before the product or service reaches the general market. The earlier these problems are identified, the easier and more affordable they are to fix. No interface, product, or service is perfect from the onset. Testing something before release allows you to refine it so that it performs efficiently.

A usability test also allows observers to gather qualitative and quantitative data regarding the product or service design, especially in terms of real-life applications. 

This type of data includes:

  • Whether users can complete specific tasks using the product
  • How long it takes to complete those tasks
  • How satisfied potential customers are with the product
  • Any changes that will improve performance and satisfaction

Usability testing also allows you to analyze whether your interface achieves its objectives. If a product does not perform well during usability testing, it will not be well-received by its target audience. At that point, the product is then refined until it’s ready to be tested again.

Factors Involved in Usability Testing

There are three elements in usability testing: the facilitator, the tasks, and the participants. These participants are real-life representations of your buyer persona based on your desired or existing target audience. 

The facilitator administers the task to the participant and records the participant’s responses. Once the participant performs the task, they can then provide feedback to the facilitator.

You can divide usability testing into three overall types, such as

  • Moderated vs. Unmoderated
  • Remote vs. In-person
  • Explorative vs. Comparative

1. Moderated vs. Unmoderated

A moderated usability test is administered and supervised by a trained facilitator who engages directly with the participants. This type can cost more to organize and implement, but it provides broader, more detailed results.

An unmoderated usability test takes place without direct supervision and often involves participants using their own means or devices. While the cost is lower, unmoderated testing does not include the benefit of follow-up questioning and detailed analyses.

2. Remote vs. In-Person

A remote usability test takes place online or by phone, without the physical presence of the facilitator. It does not go as in-depth as in-person usability tests but does allow for a more extensive test group that incorporates different demographics using fewer resources.

An in-person usability test takes place in the presence of the facilitator. This can provide additional data such as body language and personal reactions. However, it is more difficult to conduct since it involves more time and effort from both the facilitator and the participant.

3. Explorative vs. Comparative

An explorative usability test takes place in the early stages of product development. It is an open-ended test that revolves around opinions and emotional impressions regarding a concept instead of a final design. 

A comparative usability test is similar to A/B testing in that it asks users to compare two different products and choose which they prefer. Unlike A/B testing, though, comparative testing contrasts a design against its competitor.

How To Conduct Usability Testing

A usability test will be a combination of the three types—for example, an in-person moderated test, or a remote comparative test. As a business, you will need to decide what type of usability test will best suit your objectives.

Running an effective usability test takes four steps:

  1. Planning the test
  2. Recruiting participants
  3. Executing the test
  4. Analyzing and reporting findings

Planning a Usability Test 

This involves deciding the scope, purpose, schedule, necessary equipment, and roles involved in the test. It also involves defining the metrics of the test, such as what constitutes a ‘successful task’ and what constitutes an ‘error.’

Recruiting Participants 

This involves deciding on participants based on your desired or existing brand audience. You may have a singular group of testers or multiple groups from different demographics. Participants are often based on a brand’s buyer or audience persona, which helps identify key traits that testers should possess.

Executing the Test

This may involve several phases depending on the testing methods selected. After deciding what will meet your objects best, you can run the tests and then collect the results. 

Analyzing and Reporting Findings 

After you have data, both qualitative and quantitative, you can begin analyzing it. Then, you can use this information to guide your future iterations and improvements. 

Usability Testing Examples

Let’s use a moderated and in-person usability test. They offer the most control with the broadest opportunity for observation. However, they can be very resource-heavy and time-consuming.

Guerilla testing is one such method of moderated, in-person usability testing. A participant is selected in a public place such as a mall or restaurant. They are asked to perform a quick task, usually with an incentive. For example, a passer-by may be asked to fill out a quick survey for a chance to win a prize.

A lab test, on the other hand, takes place in a controlled environment. The participant completes the tasks in the physical presence of a facilitator, who will often take notes and ask for direct feedback, either while the test is ongoing and/or afterward.

Repeat and Improve

Repeat usability tests can occur at different phases of product or service development. By conducting a usability test, you ensure the best possible design and execution for your product or service—to the benefit of yourself and your users. While it takes some effort, the end result is well worth it.