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A Complete Guide to Running a Usability Test

A good usability test uncovers how people use and think about your website, and this guide will show you everything you need to run one successfully.
Usability Testing

Congratulations! You’ve created a beautiful website that you’ve raised as if it were your own child. But does it work like you think it does? Probably not, which is why you need the eyes of real users to give you some perspective. The final step before you unleash your creation onto the world? Usability testing.

A good usability test uncovers how people use and think about your website, and this guide will show you everything you need to run one successfully.

What Is Usability Testing?

Whether you are creating a website or a mobile or software application, usability testing is a critical step before launching your product.

So what is usability testing? Usability testing is a real-world stress test of your product, typically by representative users. A representative user is someone who will most likely use your work once it hits the market.

For example, is your website an e-commerce site selling women’s shoes? Your likely users may consist of your target market of women aged 25-50, but they may consist of men buying for them as well.

Users testing website

The Benefits of Usability Testing

But why take so much time and energy to test your product? Why not just launch it and see what happens, then iterate while earning some revenue?

As it turns out, there are a few significant benefits to testing before you go live. Here are the main advantages of user testing:

1. To Validate a Concept

Ideally, you will test your product early on, first during the prototyping phase of development. Why? You’ll want to know if your concept is valid in the eyes of potential customers.

The earlier you can introduce testing and gather feedback, the better. If you wait to test until after you’ve invested loads of time and money into your idea, you may be in for a rude (and expensive) awakening.

2. To Identify the Good and the Bad

Where are the pain points in the user experience? Where are the moments of excitement?
What causes friction, and what comes with ease may emerge from places you and your team never expected. Since you are the ones who have lived with the product for months on end, you probably have biases as to what works and doesn’t work.

User testing can even yield data that confirms suspected issues.

Once you identify the areas that seem to be problematic across many types of users, you can then make meaningful updates in your UX design.

3. To Optimize Complex Workflows

Are there aspects of your product that require multiple steps? Prime examples would be a checkout process for an e-commerce site or the registration process for an online course.

With the help of usability testing, you can streamline multi-step processes to make the experience as intuitive and seamless as possible.

4. To Fuel Business Growth

What does all of this translate to? A more confident rollout of your product and, ultimately, a more positive user experience all around. In the end, when the customers are happy, it benefits your bottom line.

The Basic Steps of Usability Testing

While there are many sub-steps when it comes to testing, as well as many usability testing tools you can use, the process can be broken down into three major areas.

1. The Planning Phase

The initial planning phase is the most important in your testing strategy. During this phase, you’ll want to have an agenda regarding what you want to study and methods. Here are a few things to consider during the planning stage.

What website or product do you want to test? Do you want to understand a specific aspect of your product or gain a better understanding of your product?

Most usability tests require participants to perform specific tasks. What tasks do you want to focus on in your study? What is the threshold or standard for each job?

What script do you want your moderators to use? It would be best if you created the script to be as unbiased as possible. The moderators will use the script with each tester, so it should be comprehensive and touch on every metric you want to study.

Choose moderators and note takers wisely. It’s good practice to select testing moderators from outside the design team since they will naturally come in with less bias. They’ll be less likely to answer questions or offer help during the test.

Finally, choose the participants for your study. Screening and recruiting testers may be the most challenging aspect of the planning stage. If you’re planning a highly controlled test, vet participants against a detailed user persona.

2. The Testing Phase

Now, it’s time to perform the test. There are a few different usability testing methods out there. You can perform a highly-curated test that requires moderators, note-takers, and screened participants.

You can also test strangers. Setting up a study in a crowded area with ample foot traffic can heighten the randomness factor and yield valuable insights.

You can also test online, attracting realistic users via organic search. There may be some benefits from a potential user trying your product from the comfort of their home.

3. The Data Analysis Phase

Finally, how did your product fare with its potential customers? Analyzing and reporting findings is where you reflect on how you can improve on your product and what to tweak for a follow-up usability test.


Beyond Usability Testing

The data you gather from your usability test is critical, but the information alone is not enough. You need to be able to act on your findings.

From concept through growth, we can support your product at every phase of development.
Contact us today to get started.

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