Usability testing is a technique that is used in user-aimed interactions design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an usability practice, since it gives direct input on how users are using the system. It’s more concerned with the design of the product and tested with users who have no prior exposure to it. Such testing is paramount to the success of an end product as a fully functioning application that creates confusion among its users will not last long. This is in contrast with usability methods where experts use different methods to evaluate a user interface without involving users.
Usability testing focuses on measuring a human-made product’s capacity to meet its intended purposes. Products that commonly benefit from usability testing are websites, web applications, computer interfaces, documents, and devices. Usability testing measures the usability, where as general human–computer interaction studies attempt to formulate global principles.
In simple way gathering opinions on an object is qualitative research rather than usability testing. Usability testing usually involves systematic observations under controlled condition to determine how well people can use the product. However, often both qualitative research and usability testing are used in combination, to better understand users perceptions, in addition to their actions.
Rather than showing users a draft and, usability testing involves watching people trying to use something for its intended purpose. When testing instructions for assembling a toy, the test subjects should be given the instructions and a box of parts, rather than being asked to comment on the parts and materials they should be asked to put it together. Instruction, illustration quality, and the toy’s design all affect the assembly process.
Setting up a usability test includes carefully creation of a scenario, or a realistic situation, wherein the use performs a list of tasks using the product being tested while observers watch and take notes. Several other test instruments such as scripted instructions, paper prototypes, and pre- and post-test questionnaires are also used to gather feedback on the product being tested (static verification). To test the attachment function of an e-mail program, a scenario would describe a situation where a person needs to send an e-mail attachment and asking him or her to undertake this task. The goal is to observe how people function in a realistic way, so that developers can identify the problem areas and fix them.
Hallway testing, also known as guerrilla usability, is a fast and cheap method of usability testing in which user – those passing by in the hallway are asked to try using the product or service. This can help designers to identify “brick walls”, problems so serious that users simply cannot advance in the early stages of a new build or release design. Anyone but project designers and engineers can be used (They are called “expert reviewers” because they are too close to the project).
Remote usability testing
In a case where usability evaluators, developers and prospective users located in different countries and time zones, conducting a traditional lab usability evaluation creates challenges both from the cost and logistical perspectives. These concerns lead to research on remote usability evaluation with the user. Remote testing, which facilitates evaluations being done in the context of the user’s other tasks and technology, can be either synchronized or asynchronized. Large number of tools are available to address the needs of both these approaches.
Synchronized usability testing methods are including video conferencing or employ remote application sharing tools such as WebEx. WebEx and GoToMeeting are the commonly used technologies to conduct a synchronized remote usability test. However, synchronized remote testing may lack the immediacy and sense of “presence” aimed to support a collaborative testing process. Managing inter-personal dynamics across cultural and linguistic walls may require approaches sensitive to the cultures included.
Expert review is another general method of usability testing. As the name suggests, this method relies on bringing in experts with experience in the field to evaluate the usability of a product.
Evolving in the response to user research and new devices, includes:
- Visibility of system status
- Match between system and the real world
- User control and freedom
- Error prevention
- Flexibility and efficiency of use
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
- Help and documentation
Automated expert review
Same as expert reviews, automated expert reviews provide usability testing but by the use of programs given rules for good design. An automated review might not provide as much detail and insight as reviews from users, they can be finished more quickly and consistently. The idea of creating users for usability testing is an ambitious direction for the artificial intelligence community.
In web development and marketing, A/B testing is an experimental approach to web design, which aims to find the changes to web pages that increase an outcome of interest. As the name implies, two versions (A and B) are compared, which are same except for one variation that might impact a user’s behavior. Version A might be the one currently used, while version B is modified in some aspect. For instance, on an e-commerce website the purchase funnel is typically a good candidate for A/B testing, as even marginal improvements in drop-off rates can represent a significant gain in sales. Significant improvements can be seen through testing elements like copy text, layouts, images and colors.
Benefits of Usability Testing
Usability testing allows the design and development teams clarify the problems before they are coded. The earlier issues are identified and fixed, the less expensive the fixes will be in terms of both staff time and possible impact to the schedule. During a usability test, you will:
- Learn if participants have ability to complete specified tasks successfully
- Identify the deadline to complete specified tasks
- Find the satisfaction of participants that are using your Web site or other product
- Identify changes required to improve user performance
- Analyze the performance to see if it meets your usability objectives