This guide will be the only guide you’ll ever need for understanding and getting along with usability testing.
This guide covers the following topics:
Ready to dive deep into usability testing? Read on!
User feedback is an important aspect of developing products that people love and share. Asking others to evaluate your product is common in every field especially design and user experience. Usability testing is all about getting people to interact with your website or app and observing their reactions and behavior to improve the user experience and design of your product.
In other words, it is a method of evaluating the user experience by determining whether their actual users are easily able to use the product, app, or website. Designers and UX researchers conduct usability tests after every iteration of their product – from initial stages to the release.
Usability testing is done by real-life users in order to address the usability issues of a website or a product. It is basically done to know about the issues that designers, marketers, and product managers are unable to identify.
Usability testing is important to:
Usability testing can be broadly classified into 3 domains – moderated vs unmoderated, remote vs in-person, and comparative vs explorative vs assessment.
Credits – hotjar.com
Moderated testing involves the presence of a moderator that guides the testers with respect to the testing workflows, answers their queries, and asks follow up questions. This type of testing provides in-depth results but it can be very expensive and time-consuming. Moderated testing should be done to analyze user behavior.
Unmoderated testing does not have a moderator to supervise the testing process. The testers test on their own sitting in a lab or their homes. This type of testing may result in no or less feedback as the testers may give up on the tests due to technical difficulties, especially during testing complex workflows. Unmoderated testing should be done to observe and measure behavior patterns.
In-person tests have to be conducted in the presence of a moderator and it provides extra data points like body language and facial expressions. However, it is costly, time-consuming, and it requires space in order to conduct the tests. The number of tests is comparatively low when compared to remote testing.
Remote tests are done over the internet or phone. It is significantly cheaper and more tests can be conducted when compared to in-person tests. However, the number of data points obtained via remote testing are less when compared to in-person testing. Remote testing is recommended when you have to collect a large sample of data. It is not recommended for testing complex workflows but a good way of capturing remote feedback.
Explorative tests are open-ended and are usually done during the early stages of product development. It requires the testers to brainstorm, give ideas and opinions about the product concept and usability. It helps in addressing gaps in the market and identifying potential new features and ideas.
Assessment tests are aimed at evaluating a product’s general functionality. It tests user satisfaction and how well they are able to use the product.
Comparative tests involve asking users to choose a solution from two or more solutions. These types of tests are primarily used to compare a website or a product with its competitors.
No matter where you are in your development stage, your website, app, or your product can benefit from usability testing. From prototyping to building a full-fledged product, you must incorporate usability testing.
Here are some of the benefits of usability testing:
Validating what you’re building is essential for the usability of your product and helps in resource optimization. That’s why it is important to build a prototype first instead of locking down the features of your final product. During the prototyping phase of product development, testing helps validate your product idea. It helps you plan future development and reduces unwanted overheads and wastage of resources. Moreover, it helps in avoiding product failures.
Credits – usabilitygeek.com
Testing at the prototyping stage will help you understand whether the product you’re building is important to the users? It will also help you figure out if you really should go ahead and build the complete product? Based on the response of users during the prototyping stage, you will get an idea of what to build next and what all features to include in your product.
There may be complex workflows involved in your product especially if you’re building an e-commerce product or if you have a multi-step signup page. You do not want users churning off during these complex workflows. Usability testing helps you understand the reasons for user drop-offs during each step of your multi-step process. It helps you better conversions leading to improved user experience.
No matter how much vigorously you test your product or use web app bug management tools, minor bugs always seem to go undetected. Usability testing helps in figuring out these small errors essentially saving you from future embarrassment. A new set of eyes is required to pick up broken links, spelling and grammatical mistakes, broken layouts for a few particular screen resolutions, and much more which the developers and testers generally tend to miss out on. One or two minor bugs do not hamper the user experience much but collectively, these small bugs raise a red flag against the trustworthiness and professionalism of the business.
Developers and testers may find some product features or workflows messy but they do not generally get the stakeholder buy-in to change it. If you see that the users are actually struggling while getting their hands around a feature or a workflow, you can easily persuade the organization to make changes to the same. Analyzing and reporting the key struggles of the users is highly important in order to get the stakeholder buy-in for change. Gartner expects 89% of businesses to compete for customer experience.
Usability testing can resolve your team’s internal debates. Accurate and unbiased user feedback who (unlike your team) are not emotionally attached to your product will give you a clear picture of what’s working, what’s not, and what to work on next. Analyzing how users use your product help in not having unnecessary debates thereby improving team communication. Let users guide you towards building an engaging and useful product.
Research shows that, on average, for every $1 invested in improving user experience brings $100 in return. Usability testing helps you build user-friendly products that are aimed at delivering the highest order of user experience. Users remember the experience and a world-class experience is essential for a successful product. Testing at every stage of development is critical for ensuring the delivery of unforgettable customer experiences. With testing, users are better able to reach their goals resulting in the business meeting its targets.
No doubt that usability testing is highly advantageous on multiple grounds, it comes with its own set of disadvantages.
In order to get actionable insights from usability testing, you must ask the right questions. Writing these questions sound easy at first but in reality, it takes a lot of time and effort to come up with the right questions. Some testers will interpret questions differently. Not only the questions have to be right but the testers and their experience with products.
Credits – hotjar.com
Usability tests are run to validate a prototype, to find underlying issues with multi-step complex workflows, to gather unbiased user opinion, and to get feedback in order to improve the overall user experience.
Here are some example questions you must ask the testers in a usability test:
Usability testing has four stages – screening, pre-test, test, and post-test. To collect quantitative data, use multiple choice questions and scale based questions (scale from 0 to 10). To collect qualitative data, ask open-ended questions, like – what do they think about this feature?
A good practice to follow while gathering qualitative data is to follow a “yes” or “no” type of a question with additional open-ended questions called probes. Example: Do you like this new feature? If yes – why? If no – why not?
Let’s have a look at the various questions to be asked during each of the four phases:
Before proceeding with the tests, you must screen your testers based on the target audience or user personas. Ask basic demographic and experience questions during the screening period to figure out potential testers.
Examples of screening questions assuming the website sells online programming courses:
Once you’ve selected the testers, you could again interview them prior to the actual usability test in order to learn more about their knowledge and expertise on the subject.
Examples of pre-test questions assuming the website sells online programming courses:
This is the actual testing stage. You must collect data that clearly answer why testers make certain choices while navigating through the tasks. The test may be highly interactive as the tester may talk about their thought process throughout the testing process with every step they complete. Conversely, the testers may work independently and answer the questions after each section is complete.
Examples of test questions assuming the website sells online programming courses:
After the test is over, you get a chance to ask questions related to the overall experience. Common questions during this phase include:
There are some user experience tools that must not be related to Usability testing. Some of these tools are as follows:
Surveys may be used in conjunction with usability testing but in general, they do not come under usability testing because they do not allow you to observe the interaction of users with your product. They are good at taking feedback from users. Feedback Survey tools: HubSpot forms, JotForm Survey Maker, SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and more.
Credits – feedbacq.co
A heat map allows you to visualize how users move around the web page. The most popular parts of a web page are the hot regions while the least popular parts are cold. Heat maps basically display how users move around a web page or website. Using heat maps is not usability testing. Tools for heatmap generation: Crzyegg, Mouseflow, NotifyVisitors, Hotjar, and more.
Credits – b2bquotes.com
A focus group is basically a group of users gathered together in order to discuss a specific topic. Focus groups are used to know people’s opinions about the product or service. They are not used for testing purposes.
A/B testing helps in validating whether a certain approach is working or not by experimenting with multiple versions of a web page to see which one is most effective in driving results. It does not validate user behavior, unlike usability testing. Tools for A/B testing: Google Analytics & Google Optimize, Optimizely, VWO, Adobe Target, and more.
Credits – optimizely.com
It is the last phase of the software testing process – a technical quality assurance test where users go through a set of steps. It cannot evaluate if the product is user friendly.
Most developers, designers, and product managers often get confused between user testing and usability testing. While user testing is done before the development of the product, usability testing is done after the product has been developed.
Credits – theuxblog.com
There’s a belief that user testing is done to validate the demand for the product whereas usability testing is done to evaluate how users use the product and its user experience (website review).
For user testing, the most important question is – “Will users use the product or the newly added feature?” whereas, for usability testing, the most important questions are – “Will the user be able to use the product?”.
Note that user testing is done by focus groups.
Usability testing is not a piece of cake. It takes efforts and resources to evaluate the user experience of your product. Let’s look at a few challenges of usability testing:
Before conducting the test, you must decide on the testing method that’s right for you based on what you want to achieve, how much time and money you want to invest, and the audience you want to test.
Credits – hotjar.com
Let’s dive deep into the five-step process of the most complex testing method- moderated usability testing.
It is a crucial part of the testing process as it dictates how you proceed further and the results you obtain. The planning stage deals with:
This stage deals with recruiting testers which largely depends on your testing goals and planning. You must find the right testers and in adequate numbers to not obtain inappropriate results. Recruit testers by hiring an agency, using your website or social media channels, or simply by listing jobs on job portals. You may also recruit your customers or users for the testing process.
This stage deals with planning the scenarios your participants will go through and assigning the tasks they need to complete in order to obtain actionable insights.
This stage deals with executing the various testing scenarios with testers. If you’re going for moderated usability testing, make sure the participants are physically comfortable with the testing setup and also that they know what will happen during the session. Before recording the session, seek the permission of the participants. Make them as comfortable as possible by engaging in friendly conversations before starting with the session.
Collect pre-test data before transitioning into the first task. If a participant is getting frustrated with one scenario, switch them to an easier scenario. Have someone else take notes for you so that you are fully committed to engaging with the participants. Reserve some time in the end for follow up questions for gathering overall feedback.
This stage deals with analyzing results from the collected data. Do this as soon as the session is complete as the observations will be fresh in your mind. Using the data collected, try to find out critical and frequent problems for further examination. Prioritization of issues is essential.
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