You may have great developers and designers to build a perfect digital solution. However, if it’s not tested by real people — who are not biased or members of your team — you’re taking a risk. Contrary to your expectations, the product may appear overly complicated, dull, or simply unnecessary. That is where usability testing comes in handy.
Without asking people about their experiences with the product, it’s impossible to evaluate the product’s usability. While that would be acceptable for selling a unique product, like when the newly invented wheel was brought to the market for the first time, it’s a road to failure in the modern world.
Employing usability testing tools has become pivotal for software companies, web design agencies, social media platforms, and other digital enterprises. UX testing software helps to see how users interact with a particular product and reveals the potential friction areas that should be improved.
What Is Usability Testing?
Usability is the fusion of factors like ease of use, learnability, and appearance, collectively contributing to the positive experience users have with a product. To evaluate this experience, product creators conduct usability tests. In essence, usability testing is a technique employed to assess a product’s effectiveness by observing its real-world usage among users.
Why Is Usability Testing Important?
Usability testing is essential for digital solutions to ensure their user-friendliness and intuitiveness. It’s the compass guiding designers to build interfaces that not only look good to their creators but seamlessly engage the target audience. From merely the design characteristics, usability became a business imperative as a seamless user journey translates to customer satisfaction, loyalty, and ultimately, business success.
Note that 42% of users would exit a website if they found its functionality poor. This statistic shouts the need for close attention to web design, where every click can potentially influence a customer’s decision to stay. Keep in mind that digital products are in a pool with numerous alternatives offering similar services or products. You probably get the idea—prioritizing usability isn’t just wise; it’s the key to unlocking a pathway to satisfied users and thriving businesses.
Is Usability Testing the Same as UX Testing?
While usability testing serves to learn about the user experience, it is not synonymous with UX testing.
UX extends far beyond the user’s actions on the screen during direct interaction with the product. The factors that influence UX include:
- The user’s evaluation of the company brand
- History of previous uses of the company’s products
- Satisfaction/dissatisfaction with the product value
- Brand consistency
Now, testing these factors falls outside of the realm of usability testing’s competence. Think of it as the inspecting of the inner workings of the machine — vital, but still not the entire story. For example, you may have an excellent product that the usability testing participants loved to use. But, if your company has negative user reviews, your attempts to sell the product may fail.
Source: Insider Intelligence
At the same time, the importance of paying attention to every product shouldn’t be underestimated, even by big-name brands. A survey conducted by Newsweek Inc. reveals that 54% of American consumers would stop doing business with a brand after one bad experience.
UX testing is like stepping back and examining the entire collection of efforts to sell the product—it’s the machine itself, the sales department, the company’s history, seasonal trending, and more.
Digital Products Enhanced Through Usability Testing
The practice of using real-world user testing applies to a broad spectrum of products. From creating comfortable uniforms and designing cars’ dashboards to cutting-edge software applications, the benefits of usability testing are far-reaching.
In the digital applications market, many companies offer similar or identical solutions. Sure, you could build an equally appealing website with complex functionality using various CMS, but they require different levels of expertise. Thus, the winner is the company that offers a user-friendly interface and intuitive controls, empowering an average user to change the digital landscape. The truth is, when choosing among digital offerings, the usability factor emerges as a game-changer.
Digital products that specifically benefit from usability testing include:
|In 2021, 81.9% of users abandoned an app within the first 14 days after downloading. For businesses in a saturated market like this, ensuring the best user experience is imperative for retaining customers.
|With online shopping dominating all spheres, website usability testing is crucial for e-stores. E-commerce tools that allow browsing through their virtual shelves faster and with less friction than their competition inevitably attract more customers.
|Social Media Platforms
|The user base of social media platforms is enormous, and so is the fight between various players for users’ time. Usability testing aids in refining features to meet evolving user expectations.
|Business and productivity software, like project management tools or graphic design applications, greatly benefit from web usability testing tools to enhance user efficiency.
|Online Learning Platforms
|With the rise of e-learning, website usability testing ensures that educational sites are user-friendly, promoting engagement and effective learning for all.
|Financial Management Apps
|In the fintech world, where trust is paramount, usability testing helps build interfaces that exude confidence and ease of use and improve brand image.
Usability testing for digital products is not just about functionality; it’s a strategic investment in user satisfaction.
Goals of Usability Testing
Usability testing explores the product’s content and functionalities through the users’ eyes. They may express general complaints such as the product being “not easy to use,” having a “poor design,” or being “unappealing.” However, for specialists like developers, designers, and QA testers, more detailed information is necessary to enhance the product.
Testing results yield insights into various product qualities that, when combined, create a complete story about the product’s usability:
- Intuitiveness examines how users can naturally understand the product, including interpreting visual cues and engaging with different features. An intuitive design enhances user-friendliness and allows accomplishing tasks without unnecessary features during the first user’s interaction with the product.
- Learnability measures how quickly users can become proficient with the product’s functionalities. A highly learnable item is said to have a steep learning curve, which means users gain a lot of knowledge over a short period of time.
- Navigation explores the user’s journey through the product’s structures. It identifies the possible hiccups with finding desired locations or features focusing on the specific navigation elements, such as navigation bar, menu types, pagination on the websites with exhaustive content, etc.
- Consistency ensures that the users find a predictable interface in different product parts. It includes using identical designs for triggering the same actions, font types for writing titles and text body, functional elements such as navigation bar and footer on all web pages, etc. Consistency reduces the cognitive load and makes the users more confident with the product. Additionally, the product’s familiarity enhances the brand’s recognition and positively influences users’ emotional responses.
- Effectiveness assesses product efficiency in achieving its intended goals. An effective product should meet the user’s expectations and ideally surpass them.
- Users’ satisfaction with the product’s appearance comprises multiple factors, including images, typography, color palette, layouts, and everything else they can see. An appealing design increases the chances of user retention.
Source: Top Design Firms
Breaking down the testing results into evaluations of these usability aspects allows for tackling the problematic issues more efficiently. For example, if the usability testing reveals the product’s poor navigation, the developers will look into navigation functionalities, such as menus and hyperlinks, instead of dispersing their attention to other usability facets.
The Core Purpose of Usability Testing
While usability testing explores all the intricacies explained in the previous chapter, its main purpose is to place the product in the hands of real-world users. By observing and analyzing people’s interactions with the product, usability testing identifies the problematic areas and returns results to professionals responsible for improving the product. These professionals then refine the product based on the received insights.
Essentially, usability testing is a method to make the product that its creators have the way the real public wants it. It’s not so much a phase in product development, as a strategic approach for crafting a perfect solution.
Practical Examples of Usability Testing
The usability testing objectives are broad. Sometimes, the results reveal issues that the product’s designers would not have anticipated. To better understand the usability testing goals, here are five practical examples of UI/UX testing applications:
- On the e-commerce store, users, after clicking on a product’s shopping cart button, are taken to a retailer’s page where they have to identify the product they opted for among other retailer’s products. This extra step has a negative impact on the store’s effectiveness.
- A platform for selling event tickets takes users who want to buy tickets to a third-party reseller’s forms for filling in their personal and banking data. This action damages trustworthiness and consistency.
- The mobile banking app doesn’t display the fees for using a line of credit or transaction fees until the user proceeds with the payment. This issue may cause annoyance with the app and trigger negative user emotions.
- The web design agency website has a blog page where the articles are posted daily with useful information and links to the agency’s products. However, visitors can access the blog page only through a link in the footer. Such a layout leaves little chance for average site visitors to stumble upon the blogs.
- The e-learning platform offers many courses in one list of posts, with information about the required level of expertise in the description. Making the different expertise courses visually distinctive would make the user browsing experience more pleasant.
Testing for Usability Throughout the Lifecycle of a Product
It can be incredibly beneficial to know when to implement usability testing during development. Using it in advance, particularly in the planning phase using wireframes, serves as a preventative measure that saves time by averting possible redesigns.
Testing the initial demo versions enables a thorough review of the features and design to ensure they meet the expectations of the audience and the authors’ objectives. Usability testing is not a one-time event; it becomes a regular checkpoint after implementation to confirm that modifications made in response to user testing have had a good effect.
That is not where the trip ends. Throughout the product’s lifecycle, routine usability testing guarantees that it stays relevant in the face of changing consumer trends and moods.
Types of Tests for Assessing Usability
Usability testing is a versatile tool that you can adapt to different goals. In this sense, the goals are not only the specific product features that need improvement or exploration (such as product design, intuitive controls, etc.) but also the audience you want to target and the time frame for the tests. Yet another factor that leads some businesses to turn to one type of test over another is the budget, as some tests are more cost-consuming.
Different Test Types by Objective
- Explorative testing asks participants’ opinions and explores their emotional responses to the product features. It is imperative to do this kind of usability testing early on in the ideation or product development process.
- Assessment testing evaluates the overall effectiveness of a product while tracking its users’ contentment. It is common practice to enhance current products.
- Lastly, comparison testing sets the product up against rivals. In this manner, the designers can pinpoint the areas that still require work.
Quantitative/Qualitative Usability Testing Types
Quantitative usability testing allows for gathering measurable data. For example, website usability testing tools can reveal how much time is necessary for a person to complete a buyer’s journey on the website. Another example is the percentage of users who are abandoning the mobile app in the first three days. Gathering the objective data enables comparison of different app usability testing results—to analyze the results after product improvement or to compare competing products.
Website usability testing software, like Phonexa’s HitMetrix, gathers quantitative data from website users (click rate, speed-browsing, bounce, and more) to analyze user behavior and increase conversions.
On the other hand, qualitative testing aims at capturing subjective data, such as users’ sentiments about the product, the history of their interactions, and their preferences. This method is preferable for creating in-depth product analysis and is ideally performed during one-on-one interviews.
Both of these test types should be used in conjunction for a full understanding of the product’s usability.
The testing results quality largely depends on whether it is moderated.
Moderated testing involves direct interaction between a trained specialist (also known as a moderator or test facilitator) and the test audience. Using this method, the moderator can use follow-up questions, provide participants with comprehensive instructions, and respond to their inquiries.
Real-time interactions allow the moderator to acquire data by adjusting the test based on past responses, something that would otherwise require multi-step testing. The disadvantage of moderated testing is the increased cost. Additionally, it introduces the factor of observer bias.
In unmoderated usability testing, participants take the test independently. Without the need for the test facilitator, this method is less time and cost-consuming, offering scalability and increased audience flexibility. However, it cannot provide in-depth qualitative insights like moderated testing.
In-person and remote usability testing tools can be used for both of these types. The rule of thumb is to use moderated usability testing when you need rich qualitative insights about the product and opt for unmoderated usability testing when you need large-scale quantitative data.
Source: Nielsen Norman Group
Choosing the Right Method for Usability Testing
Creative teams face various challenges when crafting digital products: the apps or websites must provide complex functionality but be easy to use; have a unique appearance, but offer intuitive design. What’s even worse, the testing had to be done yesterday and the project is already over budget.
Luckily, the combinations of different usability testing types offer flexibility to fit different needs and accomplish many goals.
Usability testing labs sessions, involving direct interaction, are ideal for in-depth qualitative insights but can be costlier and biased. Session recordings, capturing anonymous user interactions, offer scalability and unbiased data but lack real-time adaptability.
Online usability testing tools like eye tracking, first-click, and mouse tracking provide quantitative insights at a more affordable cost, suitable for large-scale studies. For instance, employing eye tracking is beneficial when evaluating visual design elements like ad placements on a website or add-to-cart button visibility.
Understanding the pros and cons of each format is crucial in selecting the right method for a given project. On the two sides of usability testing types are one-on-one interviews that excel in qualitative depth but may be resource-intensive, and online tools offering scalability and cost-effectiveness but sacrificing some depth.
The best choice depends on project goals, timeline, and the balance between qualitative and quantitative insights, making usability testing a versatile toolkit for optimizing digital product experiences.
Comparing Usability Testing To Other UX Tools
Usability testing is a UX tool that examines the user’s interaction with the product to detect its flaws. A/B testing, surveys, accessibility, and user testing are additional instruments in the UX toolkit. To select the appropriate testing method for your particular objectives you should understand the specialities of these instruments.
Note that some of the UX usability testing tools have similar criteria. For example, both A/B testing and usability testing (the comparative type mentioned above) present users with variations of products. However, they have different goals — A/B testing shows users variations to determine better solutions for the product, while usability testing presents a rival product to find which elements of the original product require improvement.
|User experience testing
|Assessing the product’s accessibility for users with disabilities
|Gathering insights into user behavior and preferences
|Determining the most effective design or feature variations
|Collecting feedback from users through structured questions
|Observes real users performing tasks to identify issues
|Evaluating the product’s compliance with accessibility standards
|Engaging users in tasks to understand their preferences
|Users divided into groups compare different design versions
|Collection of opinions without direct interaction with the product
|Moderated or unmoderated sessions, lab testing, or website usability testing
|Manual testing, screen readers, and other assistive technologies
|Real users completing tasks, often with facilitators guiding
|Comparison of two or more versions of a product
|Employing surveys with structured questions
|In-depth insights into user behavior, identifying issues
|Identifying and addressing accessibility barriers for users
|Providing insights into user experiences lacking depth
|providing quantitative data on the performance of design variations
|Gathering subjective insights into user attitudes
|Identifying usability issues, task flows, and user satisfaction
|Ensuring products are accessible to users with impairments
|Learning user preferences, behaviors, and pain points
|Testing design changes or new features for effectiveness
|Capturing user opinions on various aspects
Thus, usability testing delves into how users interact with a product, observing a sample of individuals representative of the target market. A/B testing explores design variants, user testing uncovers user preferences, surveys collect subjective opinions, and accessibility testing ensures inclusivity for all users.
Usability Testing Advantages
Unbiased Testing Participants
As the digital product undergoes all stages of its lifespan, its creators constantly interact with it. Most of the time, they are professionals in their respective spheres: design, programming, QA testing, and marketing.
Without a doubt, they know all about their creation, including its weaknesses. Yet, a perfect website, a mobile app, or a browser extension needs more than just attention from the people responsible for its creation, even if they are the highest-paid and most motivated geniuses in the software world.
What the production team members lack is the ability to look at a product without the burden of past interaction and emotional connections with it. That’s when the usability testing tools come into play, offering opinions from cold-blooded strangers who don’t consider how much effort and how many hours you invested in each detail.
Usability testing provides the final verdict because, in the end, the product will go out on the market and compete with other players in front of an audience that will be maximally close to the testing participants’ crowd.
Usability Testing Saves Time & Money
Usability testing offers a proactive approach to finding potential issues during the earliest production stages. The designers putting together a mockup or prototype for a new app and allowing unbiased users to share their thoughts on it may learn that their ideas are unacceptable for that specific functionality.
That’s also a great usability testing result—the web developers haven’t started working on the site layout and filling it with the content yet! User testing can save you money and time.
Good Sample Size
There’s one more crucial benefit that usability testing puts on the table: it’s the power to connect with a broad audience. The testing quality lies in numbers—the more participants, the richer the feedback is. One test participant may show results that are entirely out of the patterns. A small group of random people can still collectively show unexpected results you could question. But the large audience will give you trustworthy information that you should use to improve the product without any doubt.
In this regard, usability testing is the sole tool for gathering data on user experience whether you target your city’s inhabitants or the entire globe with usability testing methods like online tools.
If your team is working on a project targeting a specific group of people, there’s no way around the usability testing. It’s up to you how to allure a specific crowd to participate in testing — discounts, gifts, or fun experiences, but you can certainly achieve better testing sample size than with only your team members.
Tips for the Best Usability Testing
Your product’s success depends on whether the users like it. That, in turn, has a much better chance of happening if you conducted usability testing and used its results during product production and refinement. Usability testing can help you a thousandfold, but there are also many things to consider when preparing.
Here’s what you can do to make the most out of usability testing:
- Clearly outline the goals and objectives of the usability test. Know what you want to achieve and what aspects of the product you are testing.
- Choose participants who represent your target audience. This ensures that the feedback received is relevant to your user demographic.
- Prepare a usability test plan. Develop scenarios and usability testing scripts that mimic real-world situations to test how users interact with your product in authentic conditions.
- Whenever it’s possible conduct separate testings for different product functionalities. Break down tasks into specific actions. Clear, concise tasks help participants focus, and it’s easier to analyze results.
- Combine different usability testing methods to gather comprehensive insights. Remember the importance of two types of data, quantitative and qualitative, and the advantages of moderated and unmoderated testing.
- During the study or the test, pay attention to participants’ body language and expressions. Non-verbal cues can reveal insights beyond verbal feedback.
- Record sessions for future reference. The records will allow you to revisit specific interactions and details, compare them with subsequent tests, and analyze if the modifications changed the user perception of the product.
- Act on the feedback received. Use the usability testing reports to make necessary improvements to the product.
- Conduct post-test interviews to gather additional insights and allow participants to elaborate on their experiences, especially if the testing aimed to gather quantitative data.
- Ensure compatibility by testing your product on different browsers and devices to guarantee a consistent user experience. Keep in mind that the percentage of mobile users increases yearly, so consider conducting separate mobile usability testing.
- Set up a comfortable, distraction-free environment if you can.
- Usability testing should be an ongoing process. Regularly test and refine your product based on evolving user needs and technology trends. Build a usability testing template to be able to recreate tests after improving the product.
- If using a moderator, ensure they are trained to facilitate sessions effectively and unbiased. If the testing involves observers, they should know what to look for and how to document findings.
To Test or Not To Test
There are times when it’s OK not to conduct a usability test for a product you’re working on:
- Your product will never see the light of a digital device screen and will stay on your backup drive forever and ever.
- Your design is so cool it would blow anyone’s mind away.
- You’re only doing it to pass the test.
Otherwise, take advantage of testing the digital solution on real-world users. The benefits of this approach are overwhelming: it guarantees that you’re making something that will be useful and likable and will sell.
Usability testing provides you with directions on how to improve your work—you don’t even have to think about it hard but use the collective mind of your target audience. Finally, it will save you from making a mistake and investing your time into something that will turn out to be unnecessary, dysfunctional, or outdated.
Phonexa offers a comprehensive suite of tools that enhance lead generation, call tracking, email marketing, and other vital techniques for growing your business.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is usability testing?
Usability testing is the technique designed to observe the user experience of real-world users during their interaction with a specific product.
What are the most important benefits of conducting usability testing?
Different types of usability testing offer many benefits. The common advantages provided by usability testing tools are insights from unbiased participants, reaching a broad audience, and the ability to test design during the early stages of product production.
What types of usability testing tools are there?
The usability testing tools include lab usability testing, web usability tests, eye tracking and mouse tracking tools, and more.
Is usability testing the same thing as UX testing?
While usability testing is one of the essential UX testing methods, other UX testing tools include A/B testing, surveys, accessibility, and UX user testing.
What are the goals of usability testing tools?
Various usability testing tools are designed to help you enhance a product’s specific UX qualities, such as appearance, ease of use, effectiveness, learnability, and navigation.
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