Usability testing - real users, real results

Usability testing

When creating a new product for your company, it’s essential you carry out internal testing. You’ve got to make sure what you’ve made is working as you designed it to and weed out any bugs or errors before the big launch happens and your product goes live to the world.

You might think when something has passed internal test once-and-for-all that it’s ready to be released to the app store or to the web. I mean, you could by all means do that, at a risk. You’ll find a lot of Usability Consultants would strongly advise you carry out Usability Testing first – and for good reason.

So what’s Usability Testing? It’s an end-to-end test of the product (whether it be complete or still in development, there is never a bad time for Usability Testing!), but the testing itself is not carried out by anyone internal – an outsider, a user is the tester.

Usability testing allows the team to see how a real user will work their product. It takes place in almost an interview-like setting. A user and a monitor (A member of the team or UX Consultant) will sit in a quiet room with a laptop or phone, the user being given free reign of the product, while the monitor encourages them to voice their thoughts as they use it (but should not push or encourage them towards doing anything in particular). In another room, the rest of the team watch the testing take place, taking note of what they find out. It’s advised the watchers write down at least the 3 most prominent usability problems they noticed during the test.

While something may be clear to everyone who’s worked on the product, getting an outside pair of eyes on it is a valuable insight. It will always (more often than not) surface any issues that the team have overlooked or didn’t think would be a problem.

It’s advised to have at least 5 different users come in for a usability test. This is considered to be the most effective. Testing with five people lets you find almost as many usability problems as you would with more participants -and chances are you’ll find more problems than you have the resource to fix.

Of course, not every user is going to think exactly the same about everything, everyone has personal taste. So there may be things one user likes that another does not (for example, colour or imagery), but you will tend to notice a reoccurring pattern if there is a stand-out usability issue with your product. Comparing the notes from each user’s testing session will help you define what needs to be changed or improved about your application. The team can then collate and prioritise what needs to be done before the next release.

In conclusion, Usability Testing is essential when working on any project, no matter what form it takes. Get the insight from users ahead of the game, and it will make a big difference in the reception your product gets.

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