What is Usability Testing?

Sriya Maram, Wednesday August 31, 2016

To improve and maintain customer satisfaction and retention, organizations must ensure that their products are not only be useful, but also straightforward and enjoyable to use. Usability testing is a method of testing that evaluates how easy it is for users to interact with the product.

What is Usability testing good for?

Usability testing, also known as user testing or UX testing, is essential for companies who want to continually enhance their user experience. Usability testing is designed to emulate how end users will use the product and to determine if they have any issues with it. Feedback from these tests allows the development team to gain a better understanding of their product from the users’ perspective. Afterwards, the company can use the insights from usability testing to improve the product experience for their users and fix any pain points that the users may encounter.

Who Needs Usability Testing?

Organization developing an application with a user interface can benefit from usability testing. In highly competitive markets, a user-friendly application will help facilitate user adoption and customer retention. Usability testing needs may vary throughout the development of a product or feature, and testing strategies often evolve alongside the product.

Discovery phase testing is executed when project parameters are being set to better understand and prioritize what features and functionality the developers should work on. Usability testing in this phase gathers feedback from the users about what they need and want from the product. The second phase is testing during the Design phase, where user input is taken into account while the updates are still relatively early in development. This helps refine the design process along the way, giving the company more of a direction and focus while they are working on the website. Usability testing during staging is done when the product or feature is nearing completion. It serves as a final check to catch any other usability issues before it is released to all of the users.

How Usability Testing Works

There are many different methods of usability testing. In-person testing involves both a user and observer (test conductor). The user will be going through the website and depending on the experiment, the observer may or may not interact with the user.

Remote testing methods do not require the users to be in the same location as the test conductor. If the testing is moderated, then it is usually done via screen-share, and the test conductor may be able to interact with the user. Unmoderated remote usability testing is done where the test conductor is not able to interact directly with the user, but rather gains insight after the user is done testing the website on their own.

usability testing methods

Obstacles to Usability Testing

While user feedback is critical to widespread acceptance of your product, usability testing can be costly and time-consuming. Setting up a live scenario, inviting users, and incentivizing users to participate requires extensive planning and resources, and some organizations may not have the budget or bandwidth to scale this type of usability testing. Additionally, usability testing is necessarily a continuous process because product and feature updates can impact user interactions.

Automated usability testing is not often successfully implemented, and can require significant costs without yielding results comparable to human testers. The purpose of usability testing is to gauge whether humans can easily interact with the product. Even when AI is used to anticipate how a user will interact with the product, understanding and predicting the behavior and preferences of actual human users is often near-impossible with current technology.

Learn more about Testing Strategy with Rainforest QA

Improve your user’s experience and your product by making usability testing a priority. Rainforest QA offers faster functional and regression testing so development teams can spend less time doing repetitive tests and more time on quality-driving QA activities. To find out how Rainforest QA can help free up your in-house resources to spend more time and resources on usability testing and other strategic QA activities, read more about the Rainforest platform.