To sum up, this well-known observational method is used by UX researchers to identify design flaws and potential improvements.
The practice of usability testing has become commonplace in user experience studies.
Usability testing involves a researcher (the “facilitator” or “moderator”) guiding a participant through a series of tasks meant to evaluate their experience with a given user interface. The researcher watches the participant and takes notes as the individual completes each activity.
Usability testing and user testing are frequently used interchangeably but mean the same thing.
(The term “user testing” has been criticized on the grounds that it makes it appear as though researchers are evaluating the participant, when in fact we are simply evaluating the interface. However, the phrase refers to testing with actual consumers, which is the main focus of empirical research.
Why Usability Test?
While the specific goals of a given usability research may differ, they typically consist of the following:
- The process of figuring out what went wrong with the product’s blueprints
- Discovering areas for development
- Exploring the norms and habits of the intended audience
As to why it is essential that we conduct usability testing, please explain. Can’t you trust a professional UX designer to create an excellent UI? Even the best UX designers can’t design a perfect — or even good enough — user experience without iterative design driven by observations of real users and of their interactions with the design.
A modern user interface has numerous moving parts, and the human brain has even more. The sum total of possible permutations is extremely high. Testing is essential for successful user experience design.
Elements of Usability Testing
The facilitator, the tasks, and the participant are the three most important parts of any usability test.
The facilitator gives the participant assignments to do. The facilitator watches and listens to the participant as they carry out the tasks. The facilitator can probe further for information by asking the respondent questions.
The facilitator leads the examinee through the examination procedure. She explains the procedure, addresses any questions the person may have, and then asks clarifying inquiries.
The facilitator’s job is to keep from unintentionally affecting the participant’s performance on the test so that reliable data may be collected. Finding that happy medium takes practice.
(An app could fill in for a facilitator in remote unmoderated testing, a subset of remote usability testing.)
Participants in a usability test are asked to carry out tasks that are representative of their everyday lives. Depending on the nature of the usability test and the questions being asked, they can be either very narrow in scope or quite broad.
Here are some actual usability study tasks:
- The message “Error 5200” appears on your printer’s display. If you encounter a mistake, what steps should you take to remove it?
- A new Wells Fargo credit card account is something you’re thinking about. Check out wellsfargo.com and make a decision on which, if any, new credit card accounts you’d like to open.
- The Project Management office has instructed you to contact Tyler Smith. Try looking them up on the company’s internal network. Provide your response to the investigator.
In usability testing, task language is crucial. A participant’s performance on a task might be influenced by the way the task is phrased (a psychological phenomena known as priming) or misunderstood if the task is phrased incorrectly.
Instructions for completing a task might be spoken aloud by the facilitator or provided on paper sheets. It is common practice to have participants read aloud the work instructions. This not only aids the researchers in taking notes, but also ensures that the participant reads the instructions thoroughly.
The ideal participant would be a real person who uses the service or product in question. That could indicate that the user is actually putting the product to good use. If the participant is not already using the product, he may have a similar background to the target user group or share similar needs.
During usability testing, participants are often requested to verbalize their thoughts (a technique known as the “think-aloud method”). The facilitator could have the group keep a running commentary of their work in progress. By taking this method, we want to better comprehend the participants’ actions, aims, mental processes, and motives.
Types of Usability Testing
Qualitative vs. Quantitative
There are two types of usability testing: qualitative and quantitative.
Qualitative usability testing is to gather information about the product’s usage from customers and users. In order to identify issues with the user experience, qualitative usability testing is the most effective method. We typically see this type of usability testing rather than the more rigorous quantitative approach.
Quantitative usability testing concentrates on assembling data representative of the user experience. Quantitative usability testing often collects data on task completion rates and average times spent performing tasks. If you want to gather metrics, quantitative usability testing is the way to go.
How many people need to take part in a usability test? That depends on the nature of the research being conducted. We found that with five participants in typical qualitative usability research of a single user group, we were able to discover the vast majority of the most prevalent problems with the product.
Remote vs. In-Person Testing
User testing at a distance is common since it is more cost-effective than doing tests in-person. Moderated and unmoderated remote usability testing are also available.
There is little difference between remote moderated usability assessments and in-person investigations. However, the facilitator still communicates with the participant and gives her assignments to do. But the teacher and the student are at different places. Screen-sharing programs like Skype and GoToMeeting are commonly used for administering moderated assessments.
However, the interaction between the test’s facilitator and participants is lacking in unmoderated remote usability testing compared to in-person or moderated exams. The researcher assigns the participant textual assignments via a specialized online remote-testing technology. After that, the participant works on those assignments independently, at her own pace. The test software will provide you the directions for the task and any follow-up questions. When the participant is finished with the test, the researcher will receive a recording of the session along with data on the person’s performance on the tasks.
Cost of Usability Testing
Although you may just have to spend a few hundred dollars in incentives to participants for a simple, “discount,” usability study. All you need is a conference room for the testing session and three days of your time to conduct the simplest study (presuming you know what you’re doing and can find participants).
- Day 1: Plan the study
- Day 2: Test the 5 users
- Day 3: Analyze the findings and convert them into redesign recommendations for the next iteration
However, there are situations when more extensive study is needed, and the price tag for those studies can easily reach several hundred thousand dollars.
Expenditure-increasing factors include:
- Analysis of Multiple Designs Against One Another
- testing in a number of places internationally
- putting in place tests for a number of different “personas”
- Research that uses numbers
- usage of high-tech instruments like eyetrackers, which need a genuine usability lab or focus group room to permit others to witness, with the goal of producing a thorough report detailing the results.
In general, the ROI for more complex studies is lower than that of more elementary ones.
Printable Usability Testing Poster
A printable poster detailing usability testing is available for download and printing (available below for your preferred size printer paper: A4 size or US letter size, or you can scale the printout for bigger sheets).