When building software, applications, webpages, and other digital products, the key focus should be on user experience (UX). While many firms and teams understand how critical it is, they may only consider the user in their preliminary research and base decisions. However, it is equally important to incorporate the user throughout the development process, and most importantly, before launching the final product. Of course, there is no better way to do so than to actually consult them – through usability testing.
What Is Usability Testing?
Usability testing is allowing real users to interact with the digital product and collecting data about it Users are given a set of tasks and goals; then, researchers observe their steps, look at their times, and gather their opinions.
Ultimately, it is a reliable way to uncover the usability of your product, if users are able to easily accomplish their goals, if the product’s elements contribute to that ease and speed, and if there are opportunities for improvement in certain areas.
Real-world, unbiased feedback is essential for developing a digital product that the target audience will actually enjoy using. Without usability testing, teams can only make decisions based on preliminary research and their interpretations. While this is important, it does not guarantee that the decisions were the most effective. On the other hand, usability testing directly shows you where you succeeded and where you need to do some more work (and exactly what that work needs to be).
Usability Testing vs. Other Types of Testing
User research helps teams to understand the target user, their needs, and their contexts. It may involve surveys, interviews, and tests. Accordingly, all forms of user tests fall under user research. Typically, the majority of user research is collected and analyzed in the preliminary stages. However, tests and data analysis should be performed often during design and development.
User testing flies an idea or prototype by a target audience. It serves as a way to see if a digital product would have a place in the current market and if it would solve a current user need. When there is a potential market for the item, it can help teams uncover how current users solve their problems or reach their goals, and how their product could help them do that better. Usability testing is performed during digital product development to see how the target audience reacts to the product.
Acceptance testing verifies that all the features and functions work properly. Usability testing looks at the user’s impressions of those features and functions, and if it truly helps them with their needs.
User Experience (UX) Testing
Usability testing is a type of UX testing. However, UX testing also looks at a user’s feelings about the digital product overall, and about distinct elements within it. It may also consider other aspects of UX such as findability, adaptability, and desirability.
Why Is Usability Testing Important?
Put simply, usability refers to how easy a digital product is to use. Usability testing determines if your real-world user does find your product easy to navigate, understand, and use to solve their problems or reach their objectives.
It is easy for firms and teams to dismiss usability testing, on the basis that they think their digital product is easy to use. After all, they did invest in quality, preliminary user research and they do have educated, experienced UX professionals. Even so, there is great value in running multiple usability tests throughout development; and there is substantial risk in neglecting the simple step.
1. Detecting Usability Issues
Usability issues can be difficult to catch, especially if you have a team of professionals. While they may understand digital products and UX better than anyone else, they are also accustomed to how functions and features work. It is especially true when they work on a project from its conception. Accordingly, they may not detect issues that come up for a first-time, regular user. They may not catch that the navigation system does not have precise-enough labels, that a certain page would benefit from having sequential page buttons, or that the information architecture is too complicated at first glance.
2. Making a Great First Impression
In today’s competitive world, many digital products only have one shot to make a great first impression. If a product goes live, and your target audience immediately encounters usability issues, you may have a hard time relaunching the product. Usability testing ensures that your product is ready, or it shows you exactly where you need to make improvements before it can be ready.
3. Saving Time, Money, and Resources
If you run usability tests throughout development, there is less risk of encountering large problems at the end. When problems are caught early, teams do not need to backstep quite so far. They also do not build on top of problematic elements, wasting time and money.
4. Setting the Stage for User Satisfaction
User satisfaction necessitates that users can achieve their mission. Your digital product could check all the boxes of an excellent user experience, but if they cannot use your product, your product will unfortunately fail. On a less catastrophic note, small useability issues can decrease user satisfaction greatly. If you can detect and fix those minor problems, your user can only enjoy their experience more.
5. Feeding Future Developments
Certain digital products can benefit from continuous development and updating. Usability testing provides teams with the updated information necessary to conceptualize, design, and develop well-fitting future features.
6. Satisfying Key Stakeholders
Most digital products are backed by firm management, investors, suppliers, communities, organizations, trade associations, or other key stakeholders. They may be keen on receiving continuous updates about development and data-backed reports. Usability test results can help them understand how the digital product will fare amongst users and on the market.
7. Celebrating Successes
Usability test results not only showcase shortcomings but also display digital product successes. This type of data can not only inspire your team, but it can also help them continue to make similar, excellent functions, features, and information architecture. In other words, positive feedback is just as important as negative.