Usability testing is a crucial step in product development, and the consequences of skipping it can be dire. Take, for instance, the Microsoft Zune, which despite its competitive features, failed in 2006 due to a clunky user interface and limited music-sharing capabilities. And then there was Apple Maps, which had a rocky launch in 2012 due to inaccuracies and usability issues, resulting in negative press coverage and frustrated users.
Many of these frustrating pain points could have been uncovered and managed much earlier if only they had conducted usability testing on users. By testing your product with real users who belong to your target demographic, you will be able to understand what they feel about it, and if your product is good enough to be purchased on launch.
Contrary to popular belief, usability testing is not meant to be done only at the end of the product development process. In fact, it is meant to be conducted at every stage of the process.
In the development stage, usability testing can help you check your initial wireframes and decide if your product really addresses the market’s needs.
While redesigning, usability testing can help you evaluate the designs you have created and identify and fix any issues before the product is released into the market.
After launch, usability testing can be used to fix bugs, test out new updates and update outdated design.
Why should you conduct usability testing?
Usability testing is a crucial step in the product development process that has many benefits. Here are some of them:
Identify usability issues: Usability testing can help pinpoint issues that may not be apparent during the design phase. These issues may include problems with navigation, layout, or icons.
Improve user experience: Usability testing provides valuable feedback from real users. This feedback helps improve the user experience, making the product more intuitive and user-friendly.
Increase customer satisfaction: A product that is easy to use and meets the needs of its users is more likely to lead to customer satisfaction. By conducting usability testing, and identifying user pain points, you can ensure that the product meets the needs and expectations of its users.
Reduce development costs: Fixing usability issues after a product has been released can be costly. By identifying and fixing these issues early on in the development process, you can save time and money.
Gain a competitive advantage: A product that is easy to use and meets the needs of its users can give a company a competitive advantage in the market. Usability testing can help ensure that your product meets the needs of your users and is user-friendly, leading to increased adoption and retention.
Types of usability testing
There are multiple ways to do usability testing – however, let’s take a look at two of the most popular types: Remote & in-person usability testing, and moderated & unmoderated usability testing.
Remote and in-person usability testing
As the name suggests, remote usability testing involves the user and researcher being in different locations, with some sort of technology usually involved to facilitate the testing. The advantage of this is that it’s cheaper to conduct, faster to get results, and easier to get the ideal demographic you want because you can conduct it with users from all around the world.
In-person testing occurs when both the researcher and the user are in the same location. While this can take time and be more costly than a remote test (especially if your users are not from the same city), it has its own benefits. For example, you can set the pace of the study since you will be able to gauge your users’ reactions. You will also be able to read their facial expressions and body language to get a deeper understanding of their intent and to see if their actions match their words.
Moderated and unmoderated testing
Moderated usability tests are conducted with another person present (in-person or remote), with the opportunity for the moderator to ask follow-up questions. This can enable the moderator to gain a greater understanding of the users’ experience. Moderated user testing works best for studies that are complicated, where the moderator can help guide the user through the process to discover their pain points. It can also help establish trust with users and get feedback that is more candid and unbiased.
Unmoderated usability testing, on the other hand, mostly involves users completing predetermined tasks at their own pace and time. This is usually done online and is a more cost-efficient process of conducting research. Unmoderated user testing is best when you want to validate any concepts or designs with users quickly.
How can you conduct usability testing?
Once you decide on the method of usability testing, you need to come up with a plan and its steps to conduct it. Here are some of the types of questions you can use while creating a test plan:
Screening questions: These are used to pick the participants for the study and can contain basic demographic questions including age, gender, income level and basic experience. For example, if you're testing a mobile app for elderly users, you can use screening questions to ensure that you select participants who are within the age range of your target audience.
Pre-test questions: After the screening questions, these can be used to further narrow down your users based on their usage patterns, experiences and product preferences. For example, if you're testing a fintech app, you can use pre-test questions to find out if your participants are already using any similar apps and what features they like or dislike about them.
In-test questions: These questions can help you understand what your users feel as they are going through your product and how they are interacting with it. For example, you can ask participants to complete a task on your website or app while sharing their thoughts out loud. This can help you understand the pain points they encounter during the task and how they navigate the product.
Post-test questions: These questions can be a follow-up to any you feel you’ve missed over the course of the test, or to get more feedback about your product. For example, you can ask participants to rate their overall experience and satisfaction with your product, as well as any specific features they particularly liked or disliked.
Once you list down the kind of questions you want to ask, here are the steps you will need to take to conduct the usability test:
- Choose the website or app you are testing.
- Plan the flow of the test and the specific scenarios you will be testing. For example, if you're testing an e-commerce app, you can create scenarios for participants to select and order products, track delivery status, and make payments.
- Find the right participants with the screening questions. Ensure that they are tailored to find the unique combination of your target demographic so that you can get the most authentic results.
- Conduct the test. You can do this in-person, remotely, or using a combination of both depending on your resources.
- Analyze the results and pass them on to the relevant teams. For example, if you find that participants struggle to find a specific feature on your website, you can share the results with your design and development teams to make necessary improvements.
Usability testing is a broad method that encompasses various methods. Two of the popular ones include agile testing and rapid testing.
Rapid usability testing involves conducting user research in a short period of time to get insights quickly. It is especially useful if you have a limited budget or if you want to validate your concepts or prototypes quickly. For example, if you’re adding a new feature to your website or app, you can conduct rapid usability testing with a small group of participants to gather feedback and identify usability issues.
Agile testing also involves quicker cycles of research, but differs in execution. In agile, the product development process is broken down into multiple sprints, each of which can focus on a specific feature or problem. For example, if you’re building a website, you can use the agile process to test and iterate new features for every sprint, while also gathering feedback from users along the way.
What are the dos and don’ts of usability testing?
Usability testing is a crucial tool for product teams to ensure they are building user-friendly products. While a lot of companies conduct usability testing, most of them don’t do it right. To help you achieve successful usability testing, here are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind.
- Listen to your audience: It seems obvious, but this is not just about taking their responses at face value – you also need to delve deeper into their feedback to get unbiased, accurate results.
- Use a variety of methods and tools to conduct usability testing: To get a truly diverse perspective on what your users think, incorporate techniques such as moderated, unmoderated and A/B testing. Doing this can help you get comprehensive feedback on different aspects of your product in different research environments.
- Use recordings: It’s easy to miss small details while getting responses from users. Using recordings can help you replay segments of the test so you can get all the information you need for your analysis.
- Forget to set the right tasks: Make sure the tasks you set are in simple language, with straightforward instructions on what the user needs to do. Setting unclear tasks might lead the users to complete the tasks incorrectly or even drop off.
- Ask leading questions: The way you frame your questions can influence user responses. Asking leading questions such as “How much did you like the app” can influence users to respond positively, while that may not be what they truly mean to convey. Instead, choose a neutral question to ask your users so that you get unbiased responses.
- Conducting Tests on only the end product: While usability tests work great on end products, it is crucial to conduct it at every stage of the product development process. Testing your product at early stages ensures that you can course-correct and adjust instead of spending a lot of money post-launch.
Usability testing metrics
After conducting a usability test, it is important to analyze the feedback to get the insights for your product development. Usability testing metrics are a great way to do this. These can measure user behavior and satisfaction, as well as highlight points of frustration that can hinder the user experience. Here are some of the common usability testing metrics you should incorporate in your user research studies:
Task completion time: This measures the overall time each user takes to complete a task. For instance, if you are conducting a usability test for a website, you can measure the time it takes for a user to find a specific product and add it to their cart. This is important because, apart from informing you how long it takes for users to complete the task, it can show you if your product needs improvement, as good usability means that tasks can be done quickly and successfully.
User error rate: This data shows how many errors, mistakes or omissions a user has logged while completing a task. This data can also be helpful in pointing out where the actual errors happen during the task and what can be done to rectify them. For example, during a usability test for a mobile app, you can track how many times a user clicks on the wrong button or enters incorrect information.
Time-based efficiency: Simply put, this measures the overall time that each user has spent on a particular task (such as creating a document) or the speed with which a user has completed their task.
Overall relative efficiency: This metric compares the time taken by users who have completed the task successfully, in relation to the total time taken by all users. This is especially helpful to identify patterns or outliers.
Post-task satisfaction: The post-task satisfaction can be measured at the end of every task that is completed by every user, whether they were able to complete the task or not. There are different test formats that you can use to conduct this, each containing 3-5 questions usually. For example, after a user completes a task in a usability test for a food ordering app, you can ask them to rate their satisfaction with the experience and the ease of completing the task.
Task-level satisfaction: The task-level satisfaction can be measured by asking users to evaluate their ease of completing the tasks after all of them have been completed. This can help you measure the ease of taking the test from the users’ perspective. In a similar example as above, if you are conducting a usability testing for a food ordering app, you can ask your testers to rate their satisfaction at the end of the task.
There are many more usability testing metrics that can be tracked – including system usability rate, net promoter score, and click-through rate. Using these important metrics can do more than just give you insights into user behavior – it can also help you design a product that is intuitive, easy to use, and meets the end users’ expectations.
The role of AI in usability testing
One of the biggest drawbacks of traditional research is how lengthy and time-consuming it can be. AI has the potential to significantly reduce the time needed to conduct research and provide accurate, unbiased insights. Here are some ways AI can help with usability testing:
- Facial Coding: Facial Coding technology uses specialized software to analyze a user’s facial expressions (including micro-expressions) while interacting with a product. This can help you understand how your users feel towards your product, even if it is a subconscious response. For example, if users look very frustrated while navigating a certain part of your website, you can understand that it needs to simplified.
- Eye Tracking: Eye tracking technology measures and tracks individual users’ eye movements such as pupil dilation, point of gaze and blinking. Using eye tracking can help get insights into users’ preferences, and see what they focus on, what garners most of their interest, and how they choose to engage with your product. This can help you optimize the placement of important icons and elements, identify areas of visual distraction, and improve the overall user experience of your product.
- Voice AI: Voice AI tech involved using software to analyze a user’s vocal responses. This provides valuable insights into their tone of voice and vocal cues. This can be a useful tool for finding out about user preferences and identifying points of user frustration.
AI-based technologies and platforms can help you conduct usability testing faster, with less potential for errors and biases. Affect UX, our AI-powered UX research platform, can help you conduct usability testing on your concepts, prototypes, or live apps/websites so that you can get accurate, unbiased feedback in a week, so that you can seamlessly integrate it into your product development journey.