Sometimes questions are more important than answers
What is usability testing?
Usability testing is a way to see how easy to use something is by testing it with real users.
Users are asked to complete tasks, typically while they are being observed by a researcher, to see where they encounter problems and experience confusion. If more people encounter similar problems, recommendations will be made to overcome these usability issues.
Usability testing evaluates ease of use
Usability testing is a method used to evaluate how easy a website is to use. The tests take place with real users to measure how ‘usable’ or ‘intuitive’ a website is and how easy it is for users to reach their goals.
The video below demonstrates how a usability test might work with a short clip from a real usability test we conducted for one of our clients:
The key difference between usability testing and traditional testing (bug testing, acceptance testing etc.) is that usability testing takes place with actual users or customers of the product. Whilst traditional testing might be undertaken by a developer, designer or project manager, usability testing removes any bias by collecting feedback direct from the end user.
There are a few different types of usability testing or reasons to conduct usability research:
Comparative Usability Testing
Used to compare the usability of one website with another. Comparative tests are commonly used to compare a website against peer or competitor sites, however it can also be used to compare two designs to establish which provides the best user experience.
Explorative Usability Testing
Before a new product is released, explorative usability testing can establish what content and functionality a new product should include to meet the needs of its users. Users test a range of different services where they are given realistic scenarios to complete which helps to highlight any gaps in the market that can be taken advantage of and illustrate where to focus design effort.
This is a test of a new or updated service either pre or post-launch. This usability test introduces users to the new design to ensure it is intuitive to use and provides a positive user experience. The aim of the usability evaluation is to ensure any potential issues are highlighted and fixed before the product is launched.
There are many advantages of usability testing including:
- feedback direct from the target audience to focus the project team
- internal debates can be resolved by testing the issue to see how users react to the different options being discussed
- issues and potential problems are highlighted before the product is launched
The business advantages of usability testing can be seen at the end of the project:
- it increases the likelihood of usage and repeat usage
- it minimises the risk of the product failing
- users are better able to reach their goals, which results in the business meeting its targets
Usability testing provides many benefits, but there are a few disadvantages in using this methodology, which should be noted. Firstly, testing is not 100% representative of the real life scenario, e.g. a mother will not have her two young children running around like she might have at home. Also, usability testing is mainly qualitative, so does not provide the large samples of feedback that a questionnaire might, but the feedback can be far more accurate and insightful.
Usability testing can be used in a variety of ways during your project lifecycle. Despite not being able to mimic real life usage, 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 service.
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More UX Methods Questions
Usability testing is a way to see how easy to use something is by testing it with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks, typically while they are being observed by a researcher, to see where they encounter problems and experience confusion. If more people encounter similar problems, recommendations will be made to overcome these usability issues.
User-centred design is a process or set of tools used to design a service which focuses on what users need at the very beginning and continues throughout development until launch. Typically services are designed from a technical and business perspective, with consideration for users added in later. Instead, User-centred design ensures the service focuses on what users need before balancing this with the technical and business requirements.
Wireframing is a way to design a website service at the structural level. A wireframe is commonly used to lay out content and functionality on a page which takes into account user needs and user journeys. Wireframes are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added.
Website prototypes are interactive demos of a website. These are often used to gather feedback from project stakeholders early in the project lifecycle, before the project goes into final development
User requirements capture is a process used to understand what typical users will need from a service which is about to be designed. Users are observed using similar services and interviewed about the ways they go about planning and completing their goals. This information is used to identify a list of content, features and functionality the new service must have in order to satisfy the needs of its users.
Customer profiling is a way to create a portrait of your customers to help you make design decisions concerning your service. Your customers are broken down into groups of customers sharing similar goals and characteristics and each group is given a representative with a photo, a name, and a description.
Card sorting is a technique that involves asking users to organise information into logical groups. Users are given a series of labelled cards and asked to organise and sort them into groups that they think are appropriate. Card sorting helps you to design an information architecture, workflow, menu structure or website navigation paths.
A user journey is a path a user may take to reach their goal when using a particular website. User journeys are used in designing websites to identify the different ways to enable the user to achieve their goal as quickly and easily as possible.
Focus groups are a research method used to gather feedback and opinions from customers. Each person in the group is encouraged to participate in a discussion which is pre-planned by a researcher and is guided by a facilitator. Focus groups are typically used to gauge opinion and gather information from users about products, services, and features before they have been developed.
Remote usability testing is a way to test how easy to use a website is with users who are in a different geographical location. Traditional usability testing brings users and researchers together in one place to conduct the test, whereas remote usability testing allows the researcher and user to be in different locations while the test is completed.
An expert review is where a usability expert uses his/her knowledge and experience of testing websites with users to walk through a website in the shoes of a typical user. The expert will spot problems and recommend changes to improve usability when budgets and timescales don’t allow for user research.
Service design makes a service easier to use, more useful and more desirable for the customers who need to use it: the service user. Whether creating an entirely new service or improving an existing one, service design focuses on what customers really need at each stage of their interaction with an organisation.
Ethnography is a study through direct observation of users in their natural environment rather than in a lab. The objective of this type of research is to gain insights into how users interact with things in their natural environment.
Tree testing is a way of evaluating a proposed site structure by asking users to find items based on the sites organisation and terminology. This online test only displays the navigation links and removes any additional clutter.
We’re passionate about UX and are happy to help, whether you’re a client or not. If you’ve got a challenging UX issue or simply want a friendly steer in the right direction, get in touch with Neil and make his day:
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