In our last article, we discussed user experience (UX) and its evolution over the years. In fact, we enjoyed it a lot while giving you a tour of the most interesting aspect of web design and development. You might be wondering why we are discussing UX when the topic mentioned above is ‘Usability Testing’. There is a reason for it.
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User experience and usability testing are closely related. First, let us give you a quick insight into what usability testing is. We can simply define it as the process used to test something by involving users in real-time. Usually, what happens is users would be requested to perform or indulge in certain activities of a product or service that is going through the final phase of development.
Someone closely related to the product development team – such as a quality analyst – would watch them while they perform the usability testing. All of them are expected to express their experiences, feelings – happiness, sadness, anxiety, annoyance, frustration – while using the product. They are closely watched to understand what affects them most.
What black box testing is to apps, usability testing is to websites.
It would help them to identify the problems users face and also get an understanding of the areas where they are quite confused when using the product or service. This testing phase is usually carried out with a number of users as it would help the product development team gather a wide variety of opinions to help improve the product.
Also, different users would be provided with different ways of doing the testing.
What would happen if you never included usability testing for your product?
Unless you know what users think of your product, how would you know whether the product or service is a perfect fit for their needs? So it is important to get users to test your product or service at the development stage to avoid unnecessary wastage of time, money and other resources.
Undoubtedly, now, you have no other option but to get usability testing done right. We would even suggest getting the usability testing done during the early stages of your product development cycle – somewhere in the prototype phase. Don’t you think it would be less expensive and easier to fix when the issues are identified at a very early stage rather than right before you are waiting to go live?
This doesn’t mean that if you had implemented the usability testing during the early stages you need not do it toward the end. There is no skipping that part for your product – it needs to be tested before launching it. This will not only help you understand the pain points of your user and also identify areas that are less clear to them. There might be areas where they spend more time mainly because they are figuring out what has to be done.
Note down such areas as these need to be fixed to provide an intuitive experience across the product or service.
Usability testing has a number of benefits, including understanding user expectations. This will help you align the product better in line to comply with the user’s needs. Then, of course, as well all know it will help fix major bugs. How else do you expect to understand whether this product is aligned with the objectives or goals of your business? If not, imagine the wastage of resources, including time and money. So sooner you get to identify the objectives and design a prototype, and then get it tested, sooner you would be able to stick on to your decisions. In some cases, you might need to alter your decisions to meet business-specific requirements.
This testing process would help you understand whether the users would be able to successfully complete the tasks in real-time. Further, you can think about how to help them if you find them to struggle with your product. All this comes from user feedback and the kinds of emotions they expressed when testing your product in real-time.
Next, it is important to have a clear picture of what kind of data you would be collecting and how you would be implementing these for enhancing your product. The first kind of result is quantitative. The next one is qualitative.
When we said that a number of people are usually invited for usability testing, there is a possibility that our readers might misinterpret it as some kind of event (surveys). Small groups of people – including less than 10 – are usually seen participating in usability testing. This means that usability testing is more qualitative-research-driven.
Since we do not implement statistics to arrive at conclusions after the testing, what kind of qualitative data are we looking at here? It could include a number of factors, including their body language, facial expressions (blinking of eyes or any particular movement that is notable).
What does quantitative data refer to? It could imply a number of factors, such as the time taken to perform an activity, or the effort that they are putting in when performing a task, and so on.
And most importantly, keep a note of these qualitative and quantitative factors. These metrics will not only help on the design front but on the development front as well. Also, it is not limited to designers and developers, but to others as well, including the stakeholders, clients, etc.
When all people in the team are involved in the metrics’ calculation part, the decision-making becomes easier. Because a number of ideas will start flowing to improvise processes that bug users and hence, we have a better product in the end.
So it is always important to keep a count of the metrics when you do usability testing for the betterment of your product.
When do you opt for the usability testing: do you wait till your product is ripe?
We had already discussed that usability testing can be done during the paper prototype phase and toward the end of the cycle.
Let us take a tour of the different kinds of tests: low-fidelity and high-fidelity tests.
Low-fidelity tests, as the name suggests, are the ones conducted at the start of the project – initial phase. (As discussed, it happens at the paper prototype phase.) These usually can be conducted in a normal working environment and do not need more than two participants. The outcomes of these tests are mainly the users’ opinions in the form of comments.
High-fidelity tests help to determine the qualitative and quantitative results of your product. Usually, these tests are conducted during the final stages of the product development cycle. It would need a specific set up to conduct these tests with multiple participants joining in either remotely or in the real-time testing environment.
The outcomes are mainly: how successful the user is while completing a specific task and the time taken to complete the task.
Usability testing mainly revolves around participants. So it is critical that you get the right kind of participants to do the job. And who would be the ideal participants to handle this?
At different stages of the low-fidelity and high-fidelity tests, you would need different participants to help you with the task. Once you have a clear idea of what your users’ goals are, then we can get our participants to test it from end to end. We would always recommend gathering and dividing users into different groups when testing. This would ensure that you get appropriate results regarding the user concerns, time and effort taken, and other factors.
You need to familiarize them with the process. They need to understand your expectations and how their contributions would be valued. Mainly, it is important to make them feel at ease while they are working and testing the product.
They should be able to count the concerns aloud while the QAs observe and understand what is happening. Once they are done with the testing, you can have a casual conversation with them. Note down their concerns. Ask them about their overall experience and the areas that they found to be extremely good, and the ones that needed enhancement.
All these factors would finally help you to develop a great product.
So now, you know the importance of usability testing. Going forward, make it an imperative part of your product development cycle. It will help you to identify concerns earlier in the development stage and fix it, saving time and money.
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