The Benefits of Usability Testing Explained

By Martin Williams
Published on April 25, 2019
The Benefits of Usability Testing Explained

Creating an intuitive application or website takes time. What may seem intuitive to one person may not be to the next. Developers often improve the usability of their application or website through trial and error as well as user feedback. What your users are saying about your product is very important because without them the business can’t survive. That’s why in this article we’re going to discuss usability testing and explore what it is and how to perform a usability test to evaluate a product.

What Is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is the act of getting a sample size of users together to see how easy something is to use. Usability testing isn’t only done with digital products, it is also widely performed in other industries, such as physical consumer and commercial products. In a typical usability test, users are asked to complete various tasks within a specific time frame. If multiple users experience the same type of difficulties during the test, that tells the creators that modifications should be made to improve the ease of use.

According to Smart Insights, the budget for usability testing has been increasing due to the benefits that it brings to both the users as well as the company or product developers.

Smart Insights usability testing report

Benefits of a Usability Test

Usability testing offers a variety of benefits for both future users of a product as well as the company or developers creating that product. A few of these include:

  • Saves time for both the company and users
  • Provides a better user experience
  • Offers insight into how satisfied users are with the product
  • Identifies problem areas within the product which may not have been obvious otherwise
  • Provides an unbiased examination of the product

The return on investment of having a product which offers an excellent user experience can be massive. For example, according to Forbes, Jeff Bezos invested 100 times more into customer experience than advertising during the first year of Amazon. Today, Amazon is one of the world’s largest companies.

Types of Usability Testing

There are a few types of usability tests that can be performed. Depending on your circumstance, one may work better for you over another. Below are three popular methods of usability testing.

Hallway Testing

Hallway testing is the simplest and cheapest method of usability testing. Essentially it involves choosing any random person (more so those who aren’t very familiar with the product) and asking them to complete a task. This is a relatively high-level method of testing, however, it is important for identifying glaring issues that may not have been so obvious to people who work directly with the product on a daily basis.

Remote Testing

Remote usability testing offers a couple of major benefits over testing in-house. Primarily, remote testing allows you to outsource your testing to completely unbiased users who can be based anywhere in the world. Therefore they would have no prior experience in using your product or would even know what it is. Remote testing also allows for the user to be in the comfort of their own home allowing them to browse as they normally would instead of how they would in a lab or professional setting.

Remote testing can be done using one of two methods. The first method is synchronous usability testing where a user would join a screen share call with a moderator and they would go through the product. The moderator could then instruct the user where to go next and would make note of any difficulties the user ran into.

The second method is asynchronous. In this case, the user is not accompanied by a moderator and instead their activity, such as clicks and critical incidents, are tracked. Engineers can then study this information and based on how many people ran into similar issues, a decision can be made based on whether or not it is a good idea to change a particular component of the product.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a method of usability testing which can be done in conjunction with either of the methods above. Basically the idea is to create two different variations of a product and send variation A to one half of the test group and variation B to the other half. Once both groups have completed their tests, the results are tallied and the variation with the highest conversion rate is typically chosen as the more viable option.

How to Perform a Usability Test

There are variations as to how a usability test might be carried out. However, the process is more or less the same for each situation. When you’re creating a new product and are in need of user feedback, follow these steps:

  1. Define what type of usability test you want to conduct.
  2. Define which part of your product you want to test. Depending on the level of functionality of your product, it may be better to break up testing into chunks to prevent users from becoming overwhelmed. Let users know which part of the product they will be testing so they don’t venture too deep into other areas of the product.
  3. Define what will mark the task as complete, such as a successful sign up or purchase.
  4. Gather participants for the usability test. If you are doing a remote test you will need to setup a system with either a moderator monitoring the activity or a system which tracks how the user interacts with the product.
  5. Ask your users to complete the task at hand. The task should be carried out with very minimal guidance from the moderator as you want to observe how intuitive the product is.
  6. Analyze the results of the test. If various users were stuck at the same point during the test this should be noted and sent to the appropiate team. There will most likely be outliers who come across different issues throughout the test however your focus should be to look for common issues that the majority of users experienced.
  7. The designated team should then refine the product based on the findings in step 6.

Usability Testing - In Summary

Although usability testing takes time to conduct, it can be very beneficial in the long run. Instead of going through various iterations trying to improve the user experience while the product is in production, consider performing a usability tests before product shipments. That will lead to happier users, better conversion rates, and fewer headaches for the development and design teams.

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