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Usability Testing

What is Usability Testing?

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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.

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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:

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:

Example of Data Sheet
  • 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.