Usability testing is a process to see how easy it is to use something by testing it with real users.
Typically, users are asked to complete tasks while they are under observation by a researcher to see where they face problems and experience confusion. If more people face similar problems, recommendations will be made to overcome these usability issues.
Usability testing is a technique used to estimate how easy a website is to use. The tests take place with actual users to measure how 'usable' or 'intuitive' a website is and how easy it is for users to reach their goals.
The main difference between usability testing and traditional testing (bug testing, acceptance testing, etc.) is that usability testing occurs with actual users or customers of the product. While conventional testing might be undertaken by a developer, designer, or project manager, usability testing removes any bias by collecting feedback directly from the end-user.
There are some different types of usability testing or reasons why to conduct usability research:
Comparative Usability Testing
It is used to compare the usability of one site with another. Comparative tests are mainly used to compare a site against peer or competitor sites. But, it is also used to compare two designs to establish, which gives the best user experience.
Explorative Usability Testing
Before a new product is launched, explorative usability testing can establish what content and functionality a new product should include meeting its users' needs. Users test a wide range of different services where they are given realistic scenarios to complete, highlighting any gaps in the market that can be taken advantage of and explain where to focus design effort.
This is a test of a new/updated service, either pre or post-launch. This usability test introduces users to the original design to ensure it is intuitive to use and provides a positive user experience. The usability evaluation aims to ensure any potential issues are highlighted and fixed before the product is released.
There are many advantages of usability testing, like:
- feedback directly from the target audience to focus the project team
- internal debates can be resolved by testing the issue to see how users react to the different options discussed
- issues and potential problems are pointed out before the product is released
The advantages of usability testing can be seen at the terminating point of the project for businesses:
- it increases the likelihood of usage and repeats usage
- it minimizes the product's chances of failure
- users are easily able to reach their goals, which helps in the business achieving its targets
Usability testing gives many benefits, but there are a few disadvantages of using this method, which should be noted. Firstly, testing is not 100% illustrative of the real-life scenario, e.g., a mother will not have her two young children running around as she might have at home. Usability testing is mainly qualitative, so it does not give the large samples of feedback that a questionnaire might give, but the feedback can be far more precise, accurate, and insightful.
Thus, usability testing can be used in a wide range of ways during your project lifecycle. Despite not being able to mimic real-life usage, usability testing is still the best method of ensuring your website supports users in achieving their goals quickly and easily. When businesses meet the needs and expectations of their users, they are more likely to develop a successful service.