What is usability testing?
Usability testing is a product testing method where users are asked to perform specific tasks while someone observes and gathers results. Direct feedback from users helps to identify gaps in design or functionality and inform product changes. Effective usability testing is a team effort that requires detailed test planning, participant recruitment, test analysis, and follow-up recommendations.
Traditional testing vs usability testing
Let’s say a business has a new website and wants to test how functional and intuitive it is. A software QA tester, developer, designer, or product owner could be assigned to test the website and check for bugs or performance issues. This would be traditional testing. But the business could also task this to an end-user via usability testing. Usability testing is often a more effective way to test how intuitive and user-friendly a website is, because it obtains raw, unbiased feedback from users.
Benefits of usability testing
There are multiple benefits of usability testing, but at its core, it leverages user behavior and preferences to reveal design issues and identify opportunities for improvement.
With usability testing, you can compare the performance of your website to that of your competitors. By observing users engaging with your site versus another, you can glean insights on which website delivers a better user experience. This can inform what content, features, or functionalities you should add to your website.
Usability testing also enables users to test new designs and uncover any bugs or issues that need to be fixed before the product is launched. The earlier you find and fix these issues, the less costly it will be for the team in the future.
Usability testing methods
There are various usability testing methods to choose from. Below are a few common methods that are widely used by several organizations.
Moderated and in-person
These tests are conducted and moderated in-person and are usually performed in a very controlled environment, such as a lab.
Moderated and remote
This method of usability testing can be done via video call and screen share on a computer or mobile device. Participants are asked to complete tasks while the moderator records the result.
Unmoderated and remote
With this method, users can do their own testing at their own pace. Users engage with online tools and applications without a moderator present. Here the researcher writes the task and provides it to the participant, who then records the video and performs the task on their own. After the task is completed, the participant submits the recording to the researcher for review.
Unmoderated and in person
These tests are conducted in a controlled environment but without a moderator present. This method allows for a controlled set up with on-site technology, but the participant can engage with the test completely on their own without in-person observation.