Usability testing is a method used to assess a website, application, or another product’s ease of use. 

A usability test lets researchers, UX designers, and developers:

  • Study the prototype’s general performance
  • Learn the user’s level of satisfaction with the product
  • Discover problems and the causes behind them
  • Develop recommendations to solve said issues and enhance the product further

Why is Usability Testing Important to UX Design?

Usability testing allows you to observe and understand how real users experience and interact with your website or app. It provides the data needed to either affirm or correct your assumptions, research, and design solutions. 

While usability tests aren’t always focused on studying the users themselves, it can still provide UX researchers with insights into how target users think and feel. Their test findings can help design a product that truly aligns with a user’s needs.

What Happens During a Usability Test?

During a usability test session, a participant must undergo a series of facilitated activities that simulate how the product or app would be used in real life.

There are two parties involved in a usability test: 

Users: This group is made up of people in the UX design team’s target market. They’ll be the ones to use the product and perform tasks with it while being observed by the research team. 

Moderators: The team that will guide the users through their tasks. They’ll also note the user’s behavior, how successful they are in completing a task, and ask questions to get more detailed responses from test users. 

Some types of the tasks that users can encounter might include:

  • Paying for a premium subscription through a credit card
  • Registering or logging into an account
  • Changing a profile’s displayed information
  • Troubleshooting an error message

Learn more about how to run a remote usability test in this video: 

Usability Testing Tools for UX Designers

As UX design continues to evolve, you have a variety of great tools to choose from to conduct effective usability tests. Two of the most common include:

UserTesting

This site allows you to connect with ideal users for remote usability testing, observe their expressions and behaviors, analyze the results, and share your discoveries with highlight reels.

HotJar 

This is another tool that allows you to observe how users behave when on your website or app. Analyze heatmaps and recordings from your testing sessions, and bring the data back to your team for better analysis.

How to Get Started With Usability Testing

Some things to consider when preparing for usability testing include:

1. Define goals for the research.

What specific feature are you testing? What are you trying to accomplish with the test? What is it you’re hoping users will do when you test them?

2. Prepare different versions or prototypes.

Testing early builds of a product can validate an idea or proof of concept. Once the product is more developed, prepare different versions of it for A/B testing.

3. Choose a method for testing.

There are many ways to test a product. Will it be in a controlled environment, or will it be out in the field? Will you track user actions as they’re being tested, or will you receive feedback after testing? Prepare a script beforehand for testing administrators to follow.

4. Recruit test subjects.

You’ll need to test your product with actual members of your target audience. For better results, recruit users immediately prior to the test date—this limits their potential exposure to the product beforehand and reduces the number of no-shows on the test date. Avoid recruiting people with personal connections to the product, such as friends or family.

Summary

By knowing what usability testing is in UX design, designers can incorporate more user-centric, data-backed solutions. Usability testing strengthens the design process as a whole, uniting each member of the team around concrete examples of user experience, which allows you to create more effective products.

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