When it comes to business, the only thing that can drive the necessary return on investment (ROI) for a digital product or Web site is its user experience. Happy customers are vital to keeping the money flowing through your revenue streams, so every organization, no matter its industry, must aim to meet the essential goal of customer delight.
According to a report from Forrester, every dollar that an organization invests in User Experience results in a return of $100. That’s an ROI of 9,900%! Therefore, when you need to target your usability goals for your application or Web site, it’s absolutely necessary that you make a timely investment in User Experience. However, if your organization is unable to identify all the tangibles and intangibles of the user experience, you risk destroying its entire design.
The need for a highly streamlined development lifecycle could require that you incorporate user feedback directly into your Web site or product, so you can meet user requirements at the most effective budget. The user experience enhances user satisfaction, which results in referrals and repeat-business opportunities, so investing in usability testing and design is essential.
In this article, I’ll explain various aspects of usability testing and other methods of UX research and their importance in the business environment. Plus, I’ll highlight various types of usability testing and describe the testing process. I’ll also discuss when conducting usability testing is most beneficial. Let’s begin!
UX Research and Business
The UX design process usually involves gathering insights from an entire team of product managers, UX researchers, developers, quality-assurance testers, and business executives to learn about the user requirements. When it comes to ensuring usability, UX researchers collaborate with UX designers to create the best user experience possible. The process of preparing to conduct usability testing requires creative and critical thought to visualize all the possible test scenarios and choose those that would best complement the organization’s business objectives and enable you to create a streamlined user experience.
UX research offers so many significant benefits because improving the user experience is so important to the success of the business. UX research is central to the design process and entails gathering detailed information on what users need at the beginning of a project, then assessing a system’s most complex functionality by conducting usability testing. UX research aids the development process by eliminating the need for any guesswork and assists product teams in developing the right understanding of the desired outcomes.
Today, most businesses use some kind of software technology. Thus, the products we create play a key role in a business’s success today. User Experience helps bring a product organization’s vision into their technology. Usability testing provides all the user feedback that is necessary to create a positive product experience.
Usability testing thus helps UX designers to deliver good design outcomes that can help businesses to cater to their users and give them what they need. Moreover, a good user experience helps create positive emotions in users, encouraging them to adopt a product. Thus, usability testing offers businesses many benefits such as the following:
improving user interactions
adding to customer satisfaction
creating product differentiation
aiding rapid client approvals
driving a streamlined development process
Types of Usability Testing and User Research
Now that we’ve established the strong connection between usability testing and business-expansion initiatives, let’s quickly jump into understanding the various types of usability testing you could conduct.
This is the simplest type of usability testing. Conducting guerrilla testing requires making a prototype of an application or Web site, then testing it with random people in public places. People usually participate in these usability tests in exchange for a small gift. The process is extremely affordable and allows you to collect real-time user feedback.
Lab Usability Testing
When conducting lab usability testing, you test an application or Web site in a specialized testing environment. A moderator can ask participants’ questions, guide participants through their test tasks, and gather early feedback. This method of usability testing lets you gather rich feedback from participants. Plus, moderators can help test participants if they get stuck and provide answers to their queries.
The contextual inquiry is similar to a user interview or observation process, which enables a product team to acquire information about a product’s usage from actual users, in real time. The process often involves sharing questions with the users in advance, then exposing them to the product while observing users work in their own environment.
A phone interview is a remote usability-testing practice that requires moderators to instruct participants on how to complete certain tasks on their own device. The users’ feedback is then collected automatically.
Unmoderated, Remote Usability Testing
Unmoderated usability-testing services provide an inexpensive, robust method of testing that does not require a moderator. When participating in unmoderated, remote usability testing, participants perform certain tasks within a defined test environment. Although remote testing is a cost-effective practice, the results you obtain could lack detail.
Another excellent method of testing, card sorting helps you to prioritize features and content within the user interface. The process involves placing content and features on cards, then asking the test participants to gather them into groups and categories. Once the participants have sorted the cards, a moderator should ask them questions to try to understand their logic and follow their reasoning.
Session recording is a technique in which you record the user interactions of actual, anonymous users in real time. By understanding users’ interactions with a product, you can discover what features users find most fascinating or useful. You can use all the information you collect to create a heatmap for analysis. This process also helps you to identify any complications or difficulties that participants encounter when interacting with a product.
The Usability-Testing Process
Usability testing can be tricky. Especially when you are working on a new product for which no peer data exists. Usability testing lets you observe participants using a product to specific perform tasks. You can simplify the entire usability-testing process by following six important steps and create a perfect user experience.
1. Plan Thoroughly.
First, you must clearly define your testing goals and choose an approach that would yield the necessary qualitative or quantitative data. During this stage, UX researchers, designers, developers, and business executives should collaborate on defining benchmarks relating to navigation and aesthetics. Defining every major and minor detail of the product could help you get results with the end product more quickly and efficiently.
2. Make Sure Your Prototype Is Ready for Testing.
Usability testing usually occurs during the primary stages of UX design and development. Therefore, all the testing that you conduct to measure a product’s usability occurs before the final product is complete. Since you conduct usability testing to discover any roadblocks to development, launch, and the post-launch experience, a prototype is necessary to emulate the functionality of the product. Therefore, to achieve good test outcomes, you need test participants to be able to explore all the product’s features and functionality, which you must necessarily include in the prototype.
3. Find the Right Test Participants.
Recruiting is a crucial step of the usability-testing process. Usability testing requires that you find participants who perfectly match your target audience and recruit them to participate in a test session. This is necessary to ensure that your participants can relate to the problems of real users. You should ensure that the expectations of any participants who are associated with the company that is developing the product are not biased. Certain features might not seem as usable or convincing to actual users.
4. Conduct Your Usability-Test Sessions.
The actual testing is the most fun, yet sometimes trickiest part of the whole usability-testing process. Therefore, you must conduct your testing in a distraction-free environment. Before each actual test session begins, rectify any connectivity issues, recording problems, and any other technical issues. Usability testing must specifically look for ease of use. Watch out for participants having to make what should be unnecessary changes to the product’s colors or dashboard options.
5. Document Your Findings.
Compile and document all the findings from your test sessions. Your documentation should include a full summary of your findings, covering any gaps in the user interface, what users found easy to do, and what difficulties they encountered. Present your findings in a format that makes them easy to read and understand.
6. Analyze Your Findings.
UX researchers, designers, developers, and other members of the product team should analyze all the information you’ve gathered during the test sessions, especially noting any flaws that the team needs to address. Since the intent of the analysis stage is to remedy any functionality or features that might disrupt the user experience, make sure designers and developers don’t become too attached to the design. Your learnings from the usability study and its report should inform the next round of iterative design. Use what you’ve learned as the starting point for the next, improved version of the product.
When to Conduct Usability Testing
Although usability testing is an essential part of the product-development process, each product is different in its purpose and application. Therefore, you must conduct usability testing when its findings would be relevant to the business objectives for the product. Let’s consider when you should use the techniques I’ve discussed in this article to get the most relevant results:
guerrilla testing—When conducted during discovery or the early stages of design, guerrilla testing helps ensure that your design moves in the right direction by gathering people’s personal opinions about it and their emotional impressions.
lab usability testing—Lab usability testing is of best use either when in-depth analysis of the product is necessary or you need a more controlled approach to testing. Although this method gives you high-quality information, it is only feasible when a project has enough budget to hire moderators and test participants.
contextual inquiry—This method is beneficial for collecting rich user data. Contextual inquiries help product teams create tailored experiences by prioritizing the usability issues that actual users encounter when performing their actual tasks in the product. It is also best when you need to assess user satisfaction with a product.
unmoderated, remote usability testing—Unmoderated testing works best when you near clear findings on critical issues. You can validate that something is working well for a large segment of users or answer particular questions about patterns of user behavior. Unmoderated testing works best in meeting these goals.
on-call interviews—On-call interviews are best when you need to collect feedback from a broad group of test participants who are from different geographical regions.
card sorting—When your goal is to optimize a product or Web site’s information architecture before creating a mockup, card sorting can help you to make better-informed decisions about navigation and labeling.
session recording—Session recording helps UX researchers to understand all the major issues with a product that could affect user interactions.
Usability testing can be extremely intensive work. There might be specific cases in which meeting your objectives would demand all of the aforementioned techniques, while others might require just one or two of them. However, making the perfect choice to meet your goals when you need to make a call between different testing approaches can be challenging.
And just in case you’re wondering why we haven’t answered your query, “When should one avoid usability testing?” the answer is never.
After all, the usability of a digital product or Web site is a significant factor that helps ensure it yields the desired outcomes, meets business goals, and enables users to accomplish their goals. To ensure that you align with the business’s objectives and optimize the use of your resources, you must use the method and process that enables your team to meet usability benchmarks of the highest value.
At BugRaptors, Kanika oversees all quality-control and quality-assurance strategies for client engagements. As a voracious reader herself, she loves sharing her knowledge with others through blogging. Kanika has published countless informative blog posts and articles to educate her audience about automated and manual quality-assurance testing. Read More