Usability Testing for Beginners [Updated for 2021]
Usability Testing | Brave Achievers
It is a smart idea in almost any discipline to have others look over your work with new perspectives, and this is true in user experience design. Otherwise, your bias toward your own work may distort your perception of it. Learning from your users is the only way to create the best user experience possible. The success of any design product is in how functional and usable it is for users.
This implies that for a design to be user-centric, the opinion of users matters a lot. Thus, it is fundamental to carry out usability testing of the product with users before launching the product. Usability testing should be part of the design process because it might be a waste of time and effort if users’ opinion is not sampled on the design styles and features added in the product. Thus, it is important for beginners in design especially, to understand usability testing; what it represents, and how to do it.
What is Usability Testing?
Usability testing refers to sampling your product with real people by having them perform a series of tasks while observing and recording their interactions. The goal of usability testing is to determine whether your design is usable and straightforward enough for users to achieve their objectives. Usability testing allows you to get rid of assumptions and collect real data on your product's user experience.
What is the purpose of Usability Testing?
Usability testing enables researchers to identify any issues with their product's user experience, determine how to address these issues, and decide whether the product is usable enough. Research has revealed that only 53% of consumers believe brands do not meet their user experience expectations, while 87% of businesses believe they do. This gap emphasizes a common issue when creating new products or updating existing ones. Designers do not always have a realistic impression of their product's user experience. Since developers, designers, and product managers cannot unlearn what they know about the product and sometimes come from backgrounds quite different from their target market, they cannot make a perfect assessment of what they are offering. This is where usability testing comes into play. It exposes your product to real people in your target market. You will be able to see their experience with the product and what they think of the product.
Types of Usability Testing
User experience researchers and designers have developed several methods for testing products’ usability over the years. The methods range from carrying out lab tests to meeting users in real-time. These methods, though different in their approaches, all arrive at the common goal of getting users' feedback on products usability. Let us take a quick look at some of these methods.
Usability Testing Methods
Lab/ Moderated-In-Person Usability testing Method
This type of usability test usually happens in a moderated environment or a laboratory setting where professionals can see and analyze the trial for themselves. During a moderated test, professionals guide test participants through tasks, answer questions and respond to feedback in real-time. When to use Lab Usability Testing Method Lab testing is a good option when you need in-depth information on how users interact with the product, you will be able to see the reasons behind their experiences with the product. Yet, it can be expensive to run because you need access to an environment, you need to hire participants and a professional who will serve as the moderator. Another problem is that you need up to 5-10 participants for this test and all them must be from your customer base, so hiring that number from a single customer base might be taxing.
Guerilla testing is the easiest form of usability testing, you only need to go out, and randomly ask people about your design prototype. Random people chosen as participants are asked to perform a quick test with the product, sometimes in exchange for a small gift. It is cheap and you also get fast results. When to use Guerilla Usability Testing Method Guerilla testing is most effective in the initial stages of product development. It is useful when you have a tangible design and want to know if you are on the right track. Guerilla testing is also useful for gathering individual opinions and emotional responses to ideas and concepts.
Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing Method
Unmoderated remote usability testing takes place without the presence of a moderator but uses a web-based service to monitor the test and administer survey questions. There is no need for test facilitators because the software controls the test and records user actions. It provides quick, reliable, and low-cost user testing results that can be used for further analysis. Test participants are asked to complete tasks in their own environment, on their own devices, without the presence of a moderator, resulting in the product being used naturally. Unmoderated testing is less expensive; however, the testing results are less detailed.
When to use Unmoderated Usability Testing Method It works primarily for times when you have certain constraints with going out to meet people for testing. This method works best when you have a hypothesis from previous research that needs validation using a large sample.
Contextual Inquiry Method
Contextual inquiry is more of an interview method that assists the designer in gathering information about the user experience from real users rather than a usability testing method. Participants are first asked a series of questions about their product experience before being observed and questioned while working in their own environments. This method is useful for gathering detailed information about users, such as their preferences, and habits. Having this information at the start of the design process will assist the designer in creating a well-tailored experience.
As the name implies, it is done remotely via phone. The moderator instructs participants to carry out specific tasks and record their observations and experiences. When to use Phone Interview Method It is suitable for use when participants cannot be gathered in a specific location.
Questions to ask before choosing a Usability Testing Method
There are many testing methods out there, and you need to ask certain questions before deciding on the method to choose.
Can you meet the users physically? You need to ask if your users are available for a physical meeting, if not, you should consider using a remote testing method.
Do you want to explore what users do or what they say? This is an important question that will guide you on which testing method to use. For example, if you rate what users do and how they behave above what they say, you might want to consider a testing method that allows them to complete their tasks so you can have full details of their experience.
Can users talk while performing the task? If users can talk while performing this task, it is best to choose a testing method that allows for questions and answers, you are not only able to notice the user's behavior, but you also get the correct import of their behavior from their explanations.
Is the moderator an expert?This question comes in handy if you are considering using a moderated testing method. If the moderator is an expert, you can also include a coaching session about the product for the participants, where users can learn then the reason for their experiences.
How to carry out Usability Testing
Choose your Testing Method.Some of the testing methods have been explained above, you can go over them again and see when to use each of them to know which one to choose.
Search for test Participants.You need to look for a user base that represents your ideal audience so you can get the best results, you do not want to test your product with people who have no business using the product. For remote tests, there are online testing platforms that give you access to a wide audience where you can select your participants based on varied factors that are coordinated with the purpose of your product.
Ask the Right Questions.You might need to set time aside to brainstorm on the questions to ask participants, they must be questions that will inspire them relating to their experiences, questions that only leave room for monotonous answers will not give the best results.
Choose your Metrics. The metrics gives you the chance to track the success rate of the product with users’ experience. Some of the metrics you can consider are Task completion time, task difficulty and number of errors each user makes.
Benefits of Usability Testing
Usability Testing is a sure way to create a user-centric product. You move from the realm of assumption to working with real data from users’ observation and you can incorporate this in your design process. Usability Testing has lots of benefits, some of them are discussed below;
You can get feedback before launching your Product
Feedbacks are mostly used after products have been launched, to improve on the next product or to make an upgrade on the product, but with usability testing you have insights into users will respond to your product before launching at all, this timely feedback saves you of many things and you are able to launch the product well prepared.
You save time on the development process
The result from your user test will highlight what your priority should be, and this will give you clear goals on what to focus on and what to avoid, thus you are able to complete the product on time since you know your priorities.
Good User Experience
Testing your product before launch enables you to create a good user experience, you know, the features to include and you have better understanding of how to make the design simple enough for users.
You get innovative ideas for Solving Problems
The experiences and suggestions of your users during the test can give you innovative ideas for solving a problem or even inspire an idea for a new feature to the product. Usability is fundamental in design. The mark of a good designer is his ability to convert users’ frustrations to creating features for solutions in design, this requires tact and skill, and it can be learnt, provided you have good tutors to teach you. Therefore, you should sign up for the GoCreate USA Bootcamp and learn all there is to User Experience Design. Sign up here.