Testing usability is a common term these days. It has become the focus of many organizations. Given the importance of the subject, I decided to write a blog post on testing usability to give you – the reader, essential knowhows and examples, keeping things simple.
Usability testing is about getting users to interact with the product you designed and observe their reactions and behaviour. Whatever method you choose is up to you, but usability testing is a necessary step to make sure the product provides an efficient, and pleasant experience to the users.
So how would you be testing usability? or simply put…
What is Usability Testing?
It is a method which allows testing usability of the product by observing users. The aim here is to reveal changes to enhance the overall experience of the user.
Suppose, if you are designing a website for a fashion store online, the best way of testing the design is by having a user proceed through your product (the website, obviously!) as you watch them trying to buy their favourite apparel.
What are the Advantages of Usability Testing
Testing usability allows the identification of problems in the initial stages. Solving these issues earlier makes save staff time and impact on the schedule.
In a usability test, you will have to:
- Learn if users can finish specified tasks.
- Distinguish the duration it takes to complete said tasks.
- Understand the satisfaction level of the users with your product.
- Recognize the changes required to improve performance.
- Analyze their performance to examine if it meets your goals.
Types of Usability Testing
Based on your resources, consumers, and objectives, there are many methods for testing usability. But first, you must understand the type of testing usability to pick the right option. There are three usability testing types –
- Moderated vs unmoderated.
- Remote vs in-person.
- Explorative vs comparative.
Moderated vs unmoderated usability testing
A moderated session is conducted in-person or even remotely by a trained professional who introduces the test and answers their queries. However, an unmoderated session happens without direct supervision.
Thanks to the direct interaction, moderated sessions gives in-depth results, but it is costly to organize. The cost of an unmoderated session is lower, although the results are superficial and follow-up is unlikely.
Remote vs in-person usability testing
Remote usability tests are done either by phone or online; whereas, conducting in-person testing requires the presence of professional.
In-person tests provide extra data points compared to remote testing. However, in-person testing is also costly and time-consuming. Remote testing does not question the reasoning of the users but allows you to perform large-scale tests using limited resources.
Explorative vs comparative testing
Explorative tests are open-ended ones, which allows users to express their impressions about the concept. This data is collected in the early stages of development to help researchers identify the gaps in the market and come up with new ideas. Comparative research methods involve asking users to choose between 2 options.
How to do Usability Testing
Each method for testing usability answers your research questions. The technique of your choice also depends on the resources and objectives at your disposal.
Moderated + in-person usability testing
These testing usability sessions are moderated and conducted in-person, which offers you the most control. These methods of testing usability are excellent to collect in-depth data.
Lab usability testing
Here, the testing session inside a lab. The users finish their tasks while a trained professional observes them and inquires. All the testing sessions operate under the same standardized conditions, making it useful. However, these tests are expensive and usually can only test a small-sized group.
While testing usability with this method, the users are chosen from a public place at random. They are to examine the product in exchange for a gift card. It is a quick way to collect large scale qualitative data that validate the functionality of the product; however, it is not a method that you can utilize for extensive testing.
Moderated + remote usability testing
You can perform a moderated and remote usability testing usability session on a user with a device in the presence of a trained professional. It is an excellent method to choose a wide range of users to participate while still utilizing the abilities of the professional.
While testing usability using phone interviews, an instructor verbally instructs the users on how to complete tasks on their devices. They also collect feedback while recording the behaviour of the user remotely. Consider phone interviews as an economical way to examine any geographical area. It is comparatively affordable than in-person interviews.
Card sorting involves placing features and functions on cards and allowing users to sort these cards into groups. Once sorting the cards is over, the user justifies their reasoning to the moderator during the debriefing session. Card sorting helps get feedback about the layout and other functions. The results reflect potential customers organize information, which can help make the product more intuitive.
Unmoderated + remote usability testing
Counting on software, you can use these passive testing usability methods that give insight into how users communicate with the product in their natural environment.
This method of testing usability uses software to record the actions that users take on a product. Session recordings are the best way to find crucial problems within functionalities.
Online testing usability tools
Many online testing usability tools allow you to observe user behaviour on your product remotely – some let you compensate users into taking a short test, and others monitor their performance as they communicate with the product. It is a modest, faster and affordable way to collect large-scale qualitative data on expectations, first impressions and reactions of the users.
Unmoderated + in-person usability testing
You can conduct an unmoderated in-person testing usability sessions in a controlled environment without the presence of an administrator. It reduces the possibility that the administrator could influence or lead users with their queries.
You can join the research team as they observe the users run through a set of directions in a lab. Observation testing allows you to see the facial expressions and gestures of the users unhindered.
During such testing usability sessions, researchers observe and study the eye movements of the users using a pupil-tracking device. By analyzing where the users concentrate, the device can make diagrams for movement pathway. Using this method, you can figure out how the users are visually interacting with the product. You can also use it to test various elements to see what is taking their focus away from the features and functions of the product. The only downside to this method is the cost.
Usability Testing Process
The process of testing usability has the following phases –
In this phase, the goals of testing usability are distinguished. You need to determine the vital functionalities and objectives of your design. The method for testing usability, the demographics of the users, and formats for test reports are also distinguished.
In this phase, you recruit the users as per your plan for testing usability. However, finding users that match your demographic and professional profiles can be time-consuming.
In this phase, executing various methods for testing usability occurs.
Thoroughly analyzing the data after testing usability can derive significant conjectures which can help improve the overall functionality of the product.
Share your findings after testing usability with all concerned personnel within the organization.
Usability Testing Examples
Getting on the move with Uber
I do not need to introduce this brand, as it was once the highest-valued tech startup in the world. Available in more than 80 countries around the world, it connects users with drivers to hire their ride. Anybody who passes the background check by Uber can start driving for them, and anybody can call an Uber using the app. It also started doing food delivery – UberEATS – but that’s not our focus right now.
The goal here is to concentrate on the following parameters:
- The effectiveness of the design.
- The efficiency of the interface.
- The accuracy of the interface.
- How user-friendly is the interface?
Here are several examples for testing usability using Uber app –
Getting a ride
Say you have an event to attend that starts in about two hours. Open the Uber app on your device and get the most affordable ride out there.
Reviewing your ride
Imagine you had a bad experience with your Uber driver, so you can open the app to review your ride and provide feedback.
Adding methods of payment
If you recently upgraded your wallet or changed your credit card, you can open the Uber app to add a new card or link your digital wallet.
Getting in touch with customer support
Suppose you were charged incorrectly for a ride, open the Uber app to get in touch with customer support to solve your issue.
The best way to become good at testing usability is by practice! There are numerous ways of testing usability during the project. Usability testing is one of many methods of ensuring your product allow users to quickly and easily achieve their goals. A seamless service can only develop when organizations understand and meet the needs and expectations of their users. You can also allow others to review and possibly critique your work. It takes courage as nobody wants a bruised ego. However, when you permit people to critique your concept constructively, the final result can turn out to be far better than imagined.