What is Usability Testing?
Usability testing is used to evaluate and address changes to design or content for a product or service with representative users. During testing, participants attempt to complete specific tasks while observers watch, listen and record their progress or difficulties. Goals are generally to identify any usability issues, collect qualitative and quantitative data, and determine the participant’s satisfaction with the product or process.
Testing allows the design and development teams to identify problems before they are coded in the initial stages of development, or flaws in construction during other aspects of the development process. Usability testing can save organizations time and expense, as well as maintaining rigorous schedules and deadlines.
During testing, the design team learns if participants are able to complete tasks successfully, how long each task takes, and the satisfaction rate of the website or product. Testing allows the testers to identify changes required to improve user performance and experience, as well as to analyze performance to determine if the product meets testing objectives.
Usability testing requires fewer resources than when it was originally instituted, and the results from a single test with as few as three users may take the development team up to a month to adjust. As long as specific parameters are used in testing, a high quality of data may be collected that will significantly affect the positive outcome of the product or process.
Planning Usability Tests
It is important to go into a testing session with a concrete plan. Without strict goals, testing can waste time and resources as well as collecting incomplete or unimportant information. Typically, a plan for usability testing includes:
- Scope — This will determine what will be tested and how much of the product or process the test will cover.
- Purpose — This identifies the concerns, questions, and goals for the test. This may be a single performance issue or a more broad sense of usability.
- Participants — This includes the number and type of participants in the study.
- Scenarios — This will indicate the number and types of tasks included in the test.
- Metrics — This includes the questions that will be asked prior to testing, after each scenario has been completed, and an overall evaluation of ease, satisfaction and likelihood of recommendation at the end of each session.
- Quantitative metrics — This includes the numerical data that can be used to measure response times, completion rates, errors, and time frames for each task.
Several metrics are used to determine rates of success or failure for each scenario, and data collection is critical for accurate evaluation and proper adjustments in product or process development. Testing should include:
- Successful task completion
- Critical and non-critical errors
- Error-free rates
- Time for each task
- Likes and dislikes
- Recommendations for improvement
Testing sessions will also normally include subjective evaluations that participants submit indicating ease of use, ease of finding information, satisfaction, or any other issues discovered by the participant during the testing session.