After creating an MVP, finding out whether your idea is actually ideal for real users can be tricky. That’s where usability testing comes in handy.
Usability testing is an important tool for UX, UI, product development, and product design teams.
Doing it right, however, requires an understanding of when and how to use specific usability testing methods, what questions to ask, how to choose test participants, and how to balance budgets, timelines, and objectives with product design goals.
Read on below to learn what you need to know to effectively conduct usability testing.
What is Usability Testing?
Usability testing is a user-focused approach to design that evaluates products, apps, or websites using feedback from people who generally have no previous experience using that product or application.
It aims to measure how well your workflows, layout, and ease-of-use are designed using the experiences of people who represent your eventual target market as a benchmark.
Why Is Usability Testing Important?
Depending on which of many different usability testing methods you opt for, you can observe how people interact with your product, identify potential issues such as sticking points or bottlenecks, or other shortcomings that you may not have caught otherwise.
There are numerous benefits to performing usability testing, including:
- Getting real feedback prior to your launch: Stop relying on assumptions! Base decisions on first-hand, primary data.
- Identify and resolve onboarding bottlenecks: If you struggle to convert trial users and reduce your overall churn, you can use usability testing to identify potential issues with your onboarding tools.
- Beyond onboarding, you may need to resolve any lingering issues with other workflow steps such as checking out, signing up, or performing other app-specific actions such as private messaging or document sharing.
- Understand user needs: With usability testing, you can get a better idea of features or services your users may want that you are not yet providing.
- Shorten development timelines: Feedback on what works, what needs work, what users want, and what actions need urgent attention makes it a lot easier (and faster) to include those features in the pipeline for your next iteration. You can use a feature request prioritization framework to decide where to focus your development resources and budget.
Performing Usability Testing
To effectively perform usability testing, you need to first do the following:
- 1- Choose the type of test that suits your needs based on your budget, timelines, goals, and test scope.
- 2- Identify participants who are good representations of your target market.
- 3- Ask the right questions: While some forms of usability testing allow for unstructured and open-ended usage of your product, some require guided questions that will help you narrow down issues. Asking the right questions can also provide you with the right data needed to guide your product decisions.
- 4- Choose the right metrics: What is it you want to measure? Drop-off rates? Task times? Satisfaction levels? Knowing the questions you need to answer, and the metrics you need to answer those questions will ensure your usability test results are of practical value.
Once you have a self-created outline in place for all of the above, you can choose the usability testing approach that best suits your needs. Here are a few of the most common types of tests used by product designers and developers.
Types of Usability Testing
Moderated In-Person Testing
A moderated test is usually conducted in a lab setting and is overseen by a professional who can observe how the user behaves and help the test participants in case they have questions or issues.
This type of testing is quite expensive and time-consuming so it is usually used by large companies, not small or growing businesses that need shorter turnaround times for feedback and development iterations.
Unmoderated (Usually Remote) Testing
With this type of testing, if conducted online, you can scale your test across thousands of test subjects and use web-based services to monitor the test.
Unmoderated usability tests can be easily set up and launched and they provide a lot of granular data on how your product works in the real world.
This type of testing involves randomly asking passers-by questions and recording their responses.
It has a low barrier to entry but generates very unrefined data since the responses of random people will likely be very unstructured. This kind of testing is most effective during the pre-launch stages of an application or product.
There are several other usability tests, such as problem discovery (in which you test how easily users can complete certain specific tasks without issue) or learnability tests (in which you measure how easy or had it is for your test subjects to learn how to effectively complete specific tasks over time), but these types of tests are often subsumed within the tests outlined above and in that sense are not a separate mode of usability testing.
The same can be said for benchmark tests, which are similar to A/B testing in that you ask your test subjects to choose one of two options, but this is not meet the textbook definition of a usability test because it does not involve your test subject using your application.
Today, more than ever, in an industry characterized by hyper-customization, gaining competitive advantage hinges on being able to create smooth, seamless, and memorable user experiences.
To this end, usability testing is paramount to the success or failure of your product, and it is an important source of the data needed to guide product design and development from the perspective of your end-users.
To properly perform usability testing, you have to align your budget and desired learning goals with predefined target audiences and choose the right usability testing mode to achieve those ends, but once you have the right tests in place, the results will speak for themselves.
With so many different usability testing methods, it’s often hard to select the one that will be good for your product.
But don’t worry, every UX specialist faces the same problem. It’s essential to choose the method that you think will be good for your project and be flexible enough to change the direction if needed.
Remember that the testing method you choose should be aligned with both your resources and your objectives.
Frequently Asked Questions
👆 What is Usability Testing?
Usability testing refers to evaluating the usability of your product by having real users go through your product and try to achieve success with it.
❓Why should I conduct Usability Testing?
In order to understand whether your product is ready to be on the market and meets the needs of the users conducting a usability test is vital.
⌛️ When is the right time to conduct Usability Testing?
You should conduct Usability Testing as soon as you have a minimum viable product (MVP). Conducting it before any updates or changes to your product is also a good idea.