Since the early 90’s, the terms ‘Usability’ and ‘User Experience (UX)’ have been talked about non-stop in the world of design, and are often referred to as ‘must haves’ in the design process for products and services on multiple platforms. Where this couldn’t be more true, it’s hard to overstate the importance of usability testing. In this article, we’ll cover the importance of user testing and its benefits for both the end-user and your business.
It is really easy to mix the terms up but usability is one of many factors that shape the UX of a product, along with user research, content strategy and visual design. Creating an intuitive application or website takes time, and what may seem obvious to one person may not be for everyone.
“Good UX design is based on how seamlessly a user can navigate through a site or use a product correctly.”
What is usability testing?
Usability testing is one of the most common techniques to check how useable your app or website is. This type of testing involves users from your target audience to accomplish a set of tasks in a controlled scenario – like signing up or making a purchase. Observers will take notes of where users have succeeded or where they have struggled, so they can revisit their designs at a later date and make improvements.
Why is usability testing important?
You might be wondering, why bother? Usability testing takes time and when you’re under pressure with looming deadlines you might be tempted to forego it. Don’t make this mistake – it will cost you more in the long run. Usability testing will, of course, require a degree of time and money investment, but it will absolutely pay off.
The goal of usability testing is to gather as much feedback as you possibly can on how real users interact with your product. As early as possible, and as often as possible. This will help you identify any design issues before you get to the expensive part of the process when you’ve reached the final build. If you leave usability testing until after you’ve built your product, then any further changes will be incredibly costly.
“To run an effective usability test, you don’t need anything fancy. It’s far better to run with whatever you have to hand than to run no usability testing at all.”
What are the benefits of usability testing?
No matter where you are in your design process, from prototyping all the way to the finished product, your website or app can still benefit from usability testing. This offers a variety of benefits for both future users of a product and the company creating it, for example:
- Testing with representational users gives you an unbiased and accurate opinion of the product. Their feedback could also resolve any internal debates that your team may be having.
- It’s convenient and you can conduct your study in different ways, such as remotely, face to face or via video chat.
- It identifies problem areas within the product which may not have been obvious otherwise and could have lead to an expensive redesign.
- Offers insights into the behaviour of users, and why they took specific actions. Allowing designers and developers to spend their time working on more severe issues and how to prevent issues.
- Provides confirmation that your product meets expectations and that everything works the way it was intended.
But what about mobile?
In a world dominated by smartphones, finding a way to engage with mobile customers is becoming increasingly important. Whilst an app’s user interface is crucial, usability should always take precedence, as it’s every bit as much about good design as it is about pure functionality. Ignoring this during the design process will put your app at risk of deletion or worse, bad reviews.
A mobile app’s success hinges on one main thing: how users perceive it. Usability contributes directly to how a user feels about your app, as they consider ease of use, perception of value, utility, and the efficiency of the overall experience. Usability is what will help convert users into loyal, long-term customers, generating more revenue for your app.
For mobile application usability testing it is really important to use A/B testing. A/B testing allows you to compare two or more variations of an app design or layout. For example, you can test the effectiveness of buttons and how they differ in driving conversions, or which design layout converts more users. Instead of guessing what users prefer, test these assumptions.
Test, test and test again
Usability testing is your chance to understand how your users perceive and use your products. By regularly inviting users to test your ideas, you’ll be able to meet their needs with actionable feedback, whilst validating your own designs, saving time and creating fewer headaches for the development and design teams.
“Regardless of the platform you are creating for and the industry that you are in, good usability requires thorough user research and an iterative approach of constant testing and refining.”
If you are already looking to start running your own usability testing sessions, then we’ve got you covered with our 8-step guide on how to do user experience testing, in our User Experience Testing Checklist, even for those fast paced designers.