Usability is a measure that describes how easily users can achieve their goals with a given product. It’s best understood by going through its components, namely learnability, memorability, efficiency, satisfaction, and errors.

Learnability is the ease at which an average person can navigate and command a product. Memorability refers to how well a user can still work with the product after not using it for a long time.

Efficiency evaluates the amount of effort needed to accomplish tasks, while satisfaction pertains to whether or not a user enjoys the product’s design. 

Errors are mistakes that bring a consumer’s journey to a standstill. Depending on the severity of the error, one may stick with a product or find a more suitable alternative.

Usability is a big deal in website and web app development because it affects user experience. Given the impatient nature of web users, plus Google Search’s updated algorithm, the success of any tool or platform hinges heavily on UX/UI design. 

Before hitting the market, websites and web apps undergo usability testing to ensure that they meet demands and expectations. 

What is usability testing?

Usability testing is the process of assessing the five components mentioned above. It involves gathering a group of people who are representative of the target market and allowing them to use a prototype of your product.

Group of diverse people using smartphones

While they try to accomplish tasks using your prototype, your job is to observe and take notes of their feedback. Ideally, you need both qualitative and quantitative data to get a comprehensive view of what helps and what ruins the user experience.

In other words, usability testing allows developers to uncover problems with their products and remedy them before releasing them to the masses. 

When should you do a usability test?

Usability testing is done throughout the development process and before and after product redesign. 

The first bout of usability testing is conducted after creating a wireframe of your website or web app. The insights you generate during this phase will guide future decisions as you go deeper into development.

Next is when you have a clickable prototype. At this point, you’ll get a better picture of how intuitive and efficient your product truly is. After the launch, usability testing is carried out to optimize your design and develop new features.

How to conduct a usability test

The importance of usability testing cannot be overstated. 

Rather than expending time and resources correcting faulty features, usability testing catches errors and other points of friction before they get too costly to resolve. Hence, it saves thousands of dollars and hours spent going back to the drawing board.

Moreover, usability testing provides an objective means to validate and adjust features. It gives hard evidence to support product redesign and optimizations. 

To conduct a usability test, you need to do the following:

1. Define your objectives

Team working

Your first order of business is to define your objectives. The point of this is to ensure that you get useful and relevant data. Why are you doing the usability test in the first place? What do you want to find out? 

See to it that whatever you’re trying to uncover is going to help you achieve your business goals.

2. Select your focus

The next step is to identify which part of your website or web app you want to test. Choosing specific aspects of your product makes it easier to formulate hypotheses and analyze data at the end of the study.

Think of a broad question, then zero in on the tasks involved in that particular point of interest. For example, if you own an eCommerce website, you can pose the question, “is my platform intuitive enough for users?”. 

As a shopping platform, intuitiveness is tied to how easily consumers can find items, add to their cart, and pay for their transactions. These features will then be the focus of your usability test.

3. Choose a methodology 

Once you have the scope of your usability test figured out, it’s time to choose and construct your methodology. Your decision is going to depend on the two points raised above and the stage of product development you’re in.  

Generally speaking, there are three main categories of usability testing: explorative, assessment, and comparative. 

Explorative tests are done in the early stages of development to learn more about the effectiveness of a preliminary design. It’s also used to understand pertinent user behaviors when interacting with your product.

Assessments are utilized midway and call for real-time trials to determine efficiency and satisfaction. Lastly, comparative tests are used to contrast either two versions of your technology or versus a competitor’s module. 

Whichever method you choose, what’s crucial is to minimize external variables. Be consistent in giving instructions and vet your moderators before conducting the usability test.

4. Set a threshold for success

Thresholds for success and failure dictate whether or not your design is successful and tell you where to go after gathering information. 

Numerical thresholds are preferred since they’re easier to record and analyze. Of course, whatever threshold you can set is dependent on the type of test and questionnaires you formulate.

Hand with a Laptop

If you have users answer a 5-point Likert scale to rate product efficiency, for instance, you can specify your threshold for success at 4.6. You can also set thresholds for the minimum time it takes to finish a task, the number of clicks to get from point A to point B, and so on.

You need to have specified your thresholds before conducting tests to give meaning to your data at the end of every run.

5. Qualify participants

Finding participants is one of the most challenging parts of doing a usability test. You need to craft a detailed persona to adequately screen and recruit the right testers who closely resemble your end-users.

You can offer incentives like gift cards or monetary rewards to entice people to participate in your usability study. Another option is to test your products on colleagues, family, or friends. Unfortunately, this route is prone to bias and might not lead to very insightful results.

According to experts, testing with just five users is enough for a small usability test so long as they fit your inclusion criteria. Instead of spending a lot on a single study, it’s best to distribute your budget on a series of small tests with five users each. 

Running multiple usability tests helps detect all of your product’s weaknesses and see whether or not your revisions have addressed them. Subsequent tests can also probe deeper into a specific feature or assess the overall structure of your website or app.

6. Analyze your data

Analyze your data to find patterns and significant insights about your product design. Pay attention to both the quantitative and qualitative feedback your participants have to offer. 

You run your data through statistical tools and visualize them in various ways to make sense of the information. 

When dealing with anecdotes and written feedback, take note of recurring themes and highlight the most urgent problems that need fixing.

7. Improve your product

Man Typing on Keyboard

Finally, use what you’ve learned from your tests to improve your product. Usability testing is worth nothing if it doesn’t make your final website or web app more efficient and satisfying to use.

Listen to your consumers and bear in mind that whatever tweaks are necessary, they must be for the benefit of your end-users.

In the case of web redesign, outsourcing your needs is another way to go. Usability test reports make communications with the development team much smoother. Plus, you can focus on your business while the professionals implement optimizations.

Tips while performing and documenting the usability test

Here are a few tips in designing your usability test and documenting its results:

  • Save audio and video recordings of your participants while they use your product and report bugs (with their consent)
  • Use screen recorders during the usability test
  • Prepare a script to keep instructions uniform
  • Mimic real-life scenarios as much as possible
  • Keep an eye out for non-verbal cues (e.g., frowning, fidgeting)
  • Ask participants to clarify their statements
  • Conduct a pre- and post-test with the same set of people

Hire a Team of Professional Web Developers and Designers

Deliver the best user experience when you work with a team of seasoned web developers and designers. We’ll take the results of your usability test and execute the required changes to revamp your website or web app. Contact DevWerkz today.