Over the next five posts I’m going to be outlining usability testing, specifically in regards to building websites, web applications or mobile apps. I’ve been working with a few different clients and partners recently and found myself explaining the ins and outs of why, when and how to run usability tests, which inspired a deeper dive and in turn this series of posts.
Usability testing is a process which allows you to validate your product’s ease of use with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks to see how they expect the product to work and uncovers any areas where they experience confusion or frustration.
A few example tasks are:
- Use the website to purchase a shirt for yourself (for an ecommerce site)
- Log-in to the web application and identify your balance for checking and savings accounts (for a banking web app)
- Download the app from the app store and take a picture (for a mobile photography app)
During these tests users are encouraged to think aloud, explaining what they see and the decisions they’re making as they are progressing through the task.
Usability tests can be moderated or unmoderated and there are benefits to both and times in which you should use one over the other.
Moderated testing allows you to lead the user through a series of situations and if they get off track you can gently guide them back to the end goal at hand.
For my first round of testing, I like to use moderated testing in order to meet some of the users in person and have a conversation which can lead to other insights beyond the task at hand.
Unmoderated testing is typically cheaper and can be done using existing online tools. Some of these tools can help you find users for your test, which can be a sticking point to usability testing in general.
Another benefit of unmoderated testing is removing bias that the moderator can unintentionally cause in the user. Known as observer effect (Hawthorn effect), individuals modify or improve an aspect of their behavior in response to their awareness of being observed.
Usability testing can (and should) be used in a variety of ways during the product lifecycle. In the next post I’ll go over what kind of products can improve through usability testing as well as when to run usability tests.