Usability testing is vital to any product development process, whether it’s software or service.
Usability testing allows you to test your products and services with real people. Gain in-depth insights that will increase conversion, reduce the risk of wasted development investment and launch failures, and provide user-centric guidance for business and product strategy.
Usability testing is a research method that involves participants exploring and testing a live or prototyped service; normally a website, app, software, or other digital interface. The participants go through the interface, either being given prompts or allowed to explore freely, and a facilitator observes any issues with usability and asks questions to understand how the participant responds to the interactions (unless the session is unmoderated and has no facilitator). Insights from across multiple sessions are analysed and fed back into actionable improvements for the service, or may be used to inform strategy and other business goals.
It is a vital research method in any product development process, as well as hugely valuable for strategic, vision-focused work. It enables us to identify usability issues and missed opportunities that could be negatively affecting KPIs, as well as help us to avoid wasted investment by building something that doesn’t work for our user.
Customer-centric organisations outperform the competition at a rate of 2 to 1. Being customer-centric involves a number of things, but a non-negotiable practice is testing what we create with our users. Usability testing allows us to put the user at the heart of what we do; it gives us the opportunity to deliver more meaningful and inclusive solutions for all users.
Even doing small rounds yields powerful results, with 5 users being able to identify 85% of issues within an interface.
One important thing to keep in mind is that usability testing is not a one-time event but rather an ongoing process that should be conducted regularly throughout the product development lifecycle. Below are some key points on when and why it should be done:
The benefits of usability testing
There are many benefits to incorporating usability testing into your project lifecycle:
- Reduce risks for your product/service launch: Without user-driven evidence and insight informing decisions about your website, app or service, it is impossible to launch a product successfully first time. Avoid losing time, money and users by ensuring usability testing has been done prior to launch.
- Validate assumptions: We make assumptions all the time about what people might want or do. Testing with users provides a contained space to test and validate assumptions and ideas, and gives you evidence as to why you shouldn’t just make the changes someone more senior has asked for.
- Supports informed decision-making: The findings equip you with evidence-based findings that answer your questions and can feed into your project roadmap. You may already be monitoring the analytics of your service. Analytics are great for telling us what is going on, but usability testing tells us the why.
- Get your team excited about human-centered design and closer to your customers: Nothing beats seeing users enjoy or struggle with your products first-hand; we all want to do more for our users, and usability testing gives you the means to rally more people to do that.
- Hit your KPIs faster: It takes a few weeks turnaround to test and learn through usability testing with a prototype, whilst it might take months to develop, launch, learn and iterate from a live service or website. We can iterate and test again, constantly improving to move the dial further.
- Find new opportunities: The greatest value of qualitative research is that we learn directly from people that want to use a specific product and service. They are the best source of unexpected opportunities by sharing what they want, need or would actually do with the experience.
When to do usability testing and why
Knowing when to conduct usability testing is essential to ensure that the testing is effective and that the feedback received is actionable. This type of research supports various stages of the design process. Here are some of the key steps and how it can be used for the project’s benefits.
In the early stage of a project, we understand the business needs. We likely need more understanding of the user’s needs, preferences and mindset whilst completing the tasks we want them to take on.
We leverage usability testing to understand the user and identify potential usability problems and make changes before investing too much time and money in the design.
If the project involves a product redesign, we use the existing product for the research. On greenfield projects, teams use low-fidelity prototypes to validate early-stage assumptions.
We make important decisions daily while shaping solutions; it is important to test often with users to ensure we build the best possible solution for their needs.
During the design stage, the level of fidelity of what we test depends on how far we are within the project and what we need to test – this could be a low or high-fidelity prototype from Figma, InVision or another design software. We could also be testing with a coded prototype.
Developers are implementing the design in code, and we are refining the solution. Usability testing can help identify any usability problems that might be introduced during the development or late design stage (for example, changes to content).
At this stage, we recommend also testing with people that have digital access needs to make sure the experience is as inclusive as it can be.
The solution is live; the best way to continue improving and evolving it is to test it with the users. Usability testing will help uncover any remaining or new issues, new opportunities and ways to give you a better competitive edge.
At this stage, we leverage the live experience to introduce new ways to test and learn, which include traditional usability testing, A/B testing, analytics and more.
Our usability testing services:
- Moderated, lab-based (in-person, face-to-face) usability testing
- Moderated remote usability testing
- Accessibility testing, with people with disabilities
- Unmoderated usability testing
- Guerilla testing
- Contextual usability testing
Who do we test with/our recruitment services
We tailor our recruitment to ensure we talk with people that match the study’s needs. This includes:
- Participants from international or local recruitment panels
- People from minorities
- People with accessibility needs
- Stakeholders and employees
- Communities that use your services
Our usability testing process
We have a streamlined process to be efficient, cost-effective, safe and compliant with GDPR and the MRS code of conduct. We involve our clients at every step through check-in meetings, approval steps, and often sharing a live stream of the usability testing sessions.
- Planning and participant recruitment
- Run the test
- Analyse the findings
- Share the results, in the best format for the goals
Get in touch
Usability testing is an essential step in the design process of any product, service, or application. You can test your products and services with real people and save time and money. And we can help you with it – get in touch today for a chat with our expert team.