Why your business needs usability testing
When you’ve invested countless hours and large sums in making a digital product - whether it be a website or an app - it can be somewhat disheartening, to say the least, to discover that post-launch users are experiencing difficulties using it. This is why usability testing is so important.
By watching a representative user complete a number of tasks on your platform, you can gather all sorts of information that can help you implement changes and iron out issues to improve the user experience.
Conducting usability testing before, during and after the launch of your website or app enables you to optimize your resources and - most importantly - steer clear of problems in the future.
In this post, we’re going to take a deep-dive into usability tests to discover just why they are so important for your business.
What is usability testing?
Usability testing involves conducting tests designed to evaluate the usability of a product or service. Carried out by representative users, the tests are used to prove hypotheses, explore paths and/or confirm assumptions but, most importantly, measure the product’s level of usability and the client’s potential satisfaction with it.
During a usability test, the participant is asked to complete a number of tasks while different members of the team watch, listen and take notes. The participant could be asked, for instance, to make a purchase or find a specific piece of information.
The aim is to identify usability problems, compile qualitative data and determine the participant’s satisfaction. It is therefore important to focus on how they complete the task they have been assigned, which path they took to complete it and whether it was easy for them to complete or not.
What are usability tests used for?
The specific goal of your usability test will depend on what it is that you’re analyzing, but in general testing serves to:
- identify problems with the design of the product or service
- discover opportunities for improvement
- learn about the behavior and the preferences of the target user.
What’s the difference between usability tests and focus groups?
Although they may sound similar, usability tests and focus groups are not the same thing. In the words of Jakob Nielsen, focus groups “assess what customers say they do and not the way customers actually operate the product”.
This table lays out the differences:
|Usability Test||Focus Group|
|Goal||To understand how people use things||To understand people's feelings and opinions|
Usability tests watch users complete tasks on their own.
|Focus groups center on the thoughts and reflections of the members of the group (representing the target audience).|
|When||Throughout the process. The usability of a website can be assessed once it’s been designed or is in the testing phase.||Must be carried out at the start of the project to find out more about the target audience.|
Generally speaking, focus groups are for when you want to find out what users feel about a product or service or you’re looking to gain insights about improvements that could be made, new applications, and so on.
Usability tests, on the other hand, can be used at any point in the development process to see if you’re headed in the right direction and help you understand how and why users are using your product in a certain way.
The advantages of usability testing for UX
Usability testing enables design, development and UX teams to identify any potential problems with a website or app before it gets to the user. The sooner problems are identified and solved, the less likely it is that there will be setbacks and additional costs.
Usability testing therefore has a following benefits:
- It offers objective, precise and direct feedback of a user’s experience of a website or app
- It enables the solution to be tested before being handed over to production to detect potential issues
- It enables you to check that users can successfully complete specific tasks and find out how long it takes them to do so
- It helps you identify ways in which the product can be improved to make it stand out from the competition
- It enables you to gain an understanding of how much a product has improved in terms of its user-friendliness, learning curve, satisfaction, etc.
- It helps improve metrics (including conversion) by testing and optimizing usability
- It promotes a user-centric focus within the team
- Tests are quick and easy to conduct as they hardly require any infrastructure or material. All you need is a room, a computer and a notebook.
Why is testing important for your business?
UX specialists conduct usability studies at every iteration of the product. The experience of the real user is at the heart of the process: problems are identified from their perspective, then solutions are found and tested to see if they really work.
Identifying issues early on in the process saves businesses both time and money. If developers are forced to revise the code of a product launched with a sub-par design, it’s more likely that there will be additional costs and delays.
The cost of detecting and correcting faults in software increases exponentially over time, directly impacting workflow and development.
Correcting mistakes in the field is incredibly costly and risky. And the cost does not only translate into wasted time and resources in the present, but also lost opportunities in the future.
If the project is active, you can give priority to specific features of your app or pages on your website. This enables you to focus, in the first instance, on optimizing the usability of the pages whose goal is to convert, thus improving the purchasing process.
The benefit of usability tests is that they’re easy to set up and can be tailored to the requirements of the project in any given moment.
Taking into account all the above, we highly recommend conducting usability testing for your digital project, whatever type it is: from the ideation phase and throughout its whole lifecycle. You can test hypotheses, optimize design, improve processes and, ultimately, offer clients a user centric product.
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