“The next big thing is the one that makes the last big thing usable.”
– Blake Aaron Ross
In simple terms, Usability Testing means testing whether a product is usable or not. By usable, we mean usable by the target user and not the developer/designer. Since our focus is on the user-centered design process, it’s important to evaluate a product on the user. This evaluation is conducted on users who have no prior exposure to the said product, to achieve an unbiased opinion.
“Software designers are simply too close to their product.” (1982 Design Guidelines by Apple Computer) – And that is why it is imperative to test the product on users and not designers.
WHY USABILITY TESTING?
Usability testing gives us a direct picture of how users will use our product.
Usability testing is necessary to:
- Identify problems in the design of the product or service.
- Uncover opportunities to improve
- Learn about the target user’s behavior and preferences.
METHODS OF USABILITY TESTING
Usability tests are based on two types of verification:
- Dynamic Verification: Where the users are asked to use ht product in real-time, and the designers/developers observe this usage.
- Static Verification: Where users are asked to answer questionnaires, take surveys, give ratings, etc. with respect to the product.
Following are the methods of Usability Testing:
- Hallway Testing: Also known as Guerilla Testing, this is the simplest form of Usability Testing. An example would be walking into a cafe or a mall and asking participants to test your prototype (low-fidelity) in exchange for a reward. This type of usability testing works best when you are in the early stages of development. The randomly selected users (which do not necessarily represent your target users) express their opinions about the overall idea and the prototype.
- Lab Usability Testing: The most important factor to be considered while the execution of Lab Usability Testing is the location of the evaluators, developers, and the candidates chosen for usability testing (representative users). Lab testing needs a special environment overlooked by a moderator. Moderators are facilitators who overlook the tasks undertaken by the representative users, answer their questions, and give feedback concerning the product. Lab testing can be expensive and time taking. It’s best to undertake lab testing when you need in-depth information on user behavior concerning the product.
- Remote Usability Testing: Lab testing is almost impossible when evaluators, developers, and representative users are located in different countries. Representative users are asked to perform tasks in their own environments. There are two types of Remote Usability Testing – Synchronous and Asynchronous.
In Synchronous Remote Usability Testing the moderator and the user communicate with each other through video conferencing apps during the testing process. This is much like Lab Usability Testing, without the need to be present in a physical lab.
In Asynchronous Remote Usability Testing the user behavior is observed by evaluating the user’s clickstream, user logs, and other critical data. In this case, a moderator is not required to observe the representative users. This type of testing is best suited for websites and mobile applications.
- Card Sorting: This technique of Usability Testing can be used in the early stages of development. This method gives you insight into the navigation structures that the users prefer.
- Write concepts on a card. (Contents, features, etc.)
- Ask representative users to manipulate the cards to depict navigation, a structure that they prefer.
- Ask the users to explain the logic behind the sorting of the cards.
- Recording: A real-time video recording of users’ interaction with the product is done. This gives a direct view of the user’s pain points with the design. The user pain points you gather in this technique can be further evaluated by implementing other usability testing methods.
WHAT USABILITY TESTING IS NOT?
- Simply gathering opinions about a product. Usability testing involves observation of user interaction with the product. Gathering opinions is market research, not usability testing.
- A/B Testing. Usability testing is understanding the user experience with the product. Understanding user pain points with the current design. A/B Testing is presenting 2 options to users and understanding which of the two options they like/convert better.
“To design an easy-to-use interface, pay attention to what users do, not what they say. Self-reported claims are unreliable, as are user speculations about future behavior.”
NUMBER OF PARTICIPANTS:
In 1990 Jakob Nielsen popularised the concept of conducting multiple small usability tests, with a maximum of 5 participants for each test. His point being testing the design with 5 users, fixing the problems they find, and testing it again with new users. This ensures better use of limited resources rather than conducting tests just once with 10 users.
“Elaborate usability tests are a waste of resources. The best results come from testing no more than five users and running as many small tests as you can afford.”
– Jakob Nielsen
DEVIATIONS FROM ESTABLISHED PRACTICES IN USABILITY TESTING BY ROLF MOLICH:
- Test tasks are too simple.
- Test tasks contain unintended clues.
- The moderator helps the test participant too early.
- Moderator explores the product together with the test participant.
- Moderator manages the available time for the usability test session badly, for example by allowing the test participant to stray from the given task or by exceeding the time limit agreed with the test participant.
- Moderator pays attention to test participants’ opinions rather than focusing on what they are actually able to accomplish.
- Usability test reports include findings that are based on inspection rather than what the test participants did.
- Usability test reports are unusable because they are too long.
- Usability test reports are unusable because the most important findings are hard to find.
- Usability test reports are unusable because they are inconsistent, for example, two reports written by the same person or by the same company have widely differing formats.
Usability testing occurs after expert evaluation in the design process. The goal of usability testing is to test the usability of the product to the users, and not to test the users.
This article belongs to a series of articles in UX Design. Read other articles from the series on Art Attackk Blog Post’s.