You may think that the website or app you just made is already perfect. However, remember that we as creators are often prone to bias and there is always room for improvement. To check whether the products you’ve made are really working and meet the needs of the target users, it’s really important to conduct usability testing.

According to a study by Nielsen Norman Group which evaluated 42 projects, the performance of these products was improved by 135% after conducting the usability testing.

Usability Testing

Why Test?

Through usability testing, you can ask participants to perform tasks with at least 3 goals: to identify problems in your products that may occur, make improvements by listening to the users’ feedback, and learn more about the target users’ experience while performing the tasks.  

The Six Basic Elements of Usability Testing

Wondering how to ensure that the usability testing can work well for your product? Check out these 6 tips!

Make sure the test objectives are clear and specific

Usability Testing

Before conducting the test, try to answer these questions: “What and why are you testing? What are you trying to accomplish?” Each test should highlight a certain issue. 

By defining the test objectives clearly, it will help you to stay focused while conducting the whole process. For example, you want to check whether users can easily book a flight using your app.

With this clear goal in mind, you can make specific test questions and metrics that will be your main focus, such as “How long does it take for users to complete the booking process?” and “Do they encounter any difficulties during the process?"

Choose the right participants

Usability Testing

Selecting the right participants is one of the most crucial elements that goes into a successful usability task. You must choose participants who are representative of your intended users.

Some factors to take into account while choosing the participants are their age group, location, and whether or not they should have a particular type of experience. 

Often times when people are running out of time, they will only ask employees as the test participants. You should be careful about this, because having only your colleagues as the participants might bias the results.

Provide scenario-based task for your participants


Scenario-based tasks encourage users to behave naturally while doing the task by mimicking situations they may relate to in real life.

Making task scenarios for usability testing can be challenging as you need to give tasks that are realistic, doable, and not overly leading. Also, use simple and clear language to give the instructions.

Let’s say you conduct a usability testing with a goal to see how simple it is for users to buy movie tickets through your app.

Scenario-based task: Purchase two tickets for a movie on Saturday afternoon from the Flix Cinema app

Instead of: You want to watch a movie on Saturday afternoon. Go to the Flix Cinema app, choose the movie, select the date, purchase two tickets, and pay using a credit card.

The second scenario is overly leading by providing the users with too many cues about what to do. You can't really tell if users have truly understood the steps they should take in real context if you give them too many hints.

Observe the participants

Usability Testing

Action speaks louder than words. After conducting the test, it’s a common practice to ask participants about their impressions of the experience. However, sometimes it’s not easy for them to articulate their real opinion, and thus they make up the responses.

So, don’t just listen to them, but observe them during the process as well. Pay attention to their body languages and facial expressions. 

For instance, during performing a task you see your participants struggling at some point. Take note of this, and later after the test you can confirm it as well with the participants.

Record the session

Usability Testing

It can be challenging for researchers to recall every detail of a test. To avoid missing important details, do not forget to record the test session. So after the test, you can rewatch the session and make a more objective report rather than just relying on your memories. Also, make sure to let the participants know that the recordings are confidential and will only be used for internal purposes. 

Synthesize the findings

Now it’s time to synthesize the findings from all participants and turn them into insights. List the issue you encountered during the test, and also take note of which participants experienced the same issue. Not all issues discovered during usability testing are equally important. You need to categorize the problems based on the severity of the issues identified. 

Nielsen Norman Group has categorized the usability issues on 5 levels, and you can follow this categorization as well.
4 - Usability  catastrophe = Write down all issues that make users unable to complete the task. The issues must be fixed before the product is released.
3 - Major usability issues = Issues that can slow down the user’s experience. Need to be fixed as soon as possible.
2 - Minor usability issues = issues that might not really interfere with the user’s experience, but can be frustrating for some users.
1 - Cosmetic problem only = such as a spelling error
0 - No issue

For instance, the issue of participants not being able to navigate to the next page of the flow is obviously more serious than a spelling error. Then, discuss the findings with your teams based on this priority scale to find the possible solutions. 

Usability testing can offer insightful information and feedback on how actual users interact with your product. It enables you to determine whether the product you created has effectively met the needs and expectations of the users. So, don’t skip this process to make your product much better!

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