Usability testing is the practice of testing how easy design is to use on a group of representative users. It usually involves observing users as they attempt to complete tasks and can be done for different types of designs, from user interfaces to physical products. It is often conducted repeatedly, from early development until a product’s release. This testing mainly focuses on the users’ efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction in use of the product. People also associate Learnability and Memorability with usability.

The main benefit and purpose of usability testing is to identify usage problems with a design as early as possible, so they can be fixed before the design is implemented or mass produced. Therefore, usability testing is often conducted on prototypes in addition to finished products. The prototypes used for usability testing can be with different levels of fidelity (i.e., detail and finish) depending on the product development phase.

Benefits of Usability Testing

Usability Testing of prototypes allows the design and development teams identify usage problems before they are coded. The earlier the Usability problems are identified and fixed, the less expensive the fixes will be in terms of both effort and possible impact on the schedule. During a usability test, you will:

  • Learn if participants are able to complete specific tasks successfully
  • Identify how long it takes to complete specific tasks
  • Find out how satisfied participants are with your website or application
  • Identify the changes required to improve user performance and satisfaction
  • analyze the performance to see if it meets your usability objectives

How is Usability Testing done?

  1. Lab Usability Testing: This testing is usually conducted in a dedicated Usability lab in the presence of the Researcher, Observers and Project team members. Usability labs provide the facility of one-way viewing mirror where other project team members can hear, observe facial expressions and screen interaction of the participant. The participant is assigned tasks to execute – the tasks are aligned to the main goal of the website or app. The role of the observer is to monitor the behavior of the testers as they do the tasks. The researcher then asks questions to understand Usability problems that the participant was facing while doing the task. Sometime eye-tracking is also used in lab based usability testing.
  2. Remote Usability Testing: Remote usability testing can be moderated (with a facilitator) or unmoderated. Under this testing observers and testers are remotely located. Testers access the System under Test, remotely and perform assigned tasks. Tester’s voice, screen activity, testers facial expressions are recorded by automated software tooling. With Unmoderated Usability Testing platforms, reports are automatically generated with Video of Usability test sessions, heatmaps, clickmaps, scrollmaps and website navigation hierarchy. Researchers analyze this gathered information and report the findings of the Usability test.
  3. A third type of informal Usability testing is “Hallway testing”. In Hallway testing, people outside of the project team, not necessarily belonging to the target audience, are randomly invited to use the product. Their usage feedback is recorded. Although informal, this method can be helpful to catch obvious usability problems which might not be easy to detect by project team members themselves.

Usability testing can be used in a variety of ways during your product development lifecycle including post-launch. Despite not being able to mimic real life usage of a random website visitor or app user, usability testing is still the best method of ensuring your website supports users in achieving their goals quickly and easily. When businesses meet the needs and expectations of their users, they are more likely to develop a successful product.

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