All products are different. All experiences are unique. Yes, when it comes to design and development, experiment is always on. Designers and developers always strive to make the best web products to give you an awesome user experience. But how far are they successful? Are their experiments worth the effort? It is usability testing that will evaluate and give the answers to these questions. No doubt, it involves trial and error but it will help to make a product that is aptly a ‘user’s product’.

Usability testing is the process of systematically observing and noting the assigned user while performing a task or taking a particular call to action. It is a pivotal step in the UX cycle so as to recognize the troubles faced by the user and the steps that can be taken to solve all with the help of the salient features in testing, that is, learn-ability, effectiveness, memorability, troubleshooting and satisfaction.

Usability testing is a great tool to analyze the results effectively and should be conducted whenever possible. The biggest mastery that a UX developer can have is to understand a user’s mindset and this is what usability testing can enable him to do. These tests can give an insight to the user behavior and can pinpoint the potential problems faced by them. Further, being suitable to the budget and time, these tests do not pose much burden and are easy to conduct.

For testing, first of all, you need to be clear of the sample, that is, the page or the area of the site or the application you wish to undergo testing on. Scope is a major determinant here as going for detailed testing on each and every aspect can take a toll on the developer as well as the participant. The testing can be done by analyzing the tasks and the scenarios assigned to the representative users.

They can be made familiar with the tests through a written script that explains the purpose and aim of these sessions of performance. Such an approach can successfully test the prototype and determine how far the progress has been made in terms of usability. Make sure that the participants represent the actual users so that there is no biasness in results as honest feedback is something that is wanted and close connections and known groups can somewhat deter the agenda. Regarding the number, there is no set number; however, minimum five participants will definitely work in your favor. While they do their tasks, note, listen, observe and learn from the performance to judge the final usability rate.

At Think 360 Studio, out and out is what we believe in. So, in order to guarantee you an awesome experience we leave no stone unturned and make sure to give you foolproof products by doing rigorous testing on them. Having done numerous usability tests, we are quite acquainted with the mistakes that are commonly made during the procedure. Hence, here we share the things that should be kept in mind while fixing the tests:

1. Let Colors Be Designer’s Domain

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Usability testing is done with the criteria to assess the troubles that the users face on the website. But going for a color check through testing is a wrong approach as it will not define a particular task for the participants and also, will not put forward their performance. Going for preference than performance is not the key. Choices are quite subjective and questions regarding background color, brand logo, homepage etc. should be confined to the territory of the creative director who knows the brand more closely and can associate with its identity to a great extent. He can know the relative dimensions just as per the directions of the client and the image he has in mind for brand value.

2. Even a Peek Can Give Answers

Peek tests can give an idea as to how the target group is using the site. A simple yet an effective technique, peek tests are meant to introduce the site to the client or the variant. Such tests although give a brief glance but in turn prove successful to giving some useful results. It is a trigger that sets the path for the detailed testing that can be conducted further.

3. Keep a Check On The Difficulty Quotient

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Making the tests complicated for the participants will not be of any use. Why? That is because they will not be able to perform and give their feedback. Tests should be simple targeting the areas of the site where usability needs to be determined. If readability or understand-ability stands as a block then eliminate such elements from the testing format. Yes, testing can only work if you allow so.

 

4. Ensure Relevance In Every Aspect

Usability testing can work properly only if the tests incorporate high relevance in its data. Right from observing the history to the preferences of the target group, the process should be designed in a manner that complies with the nature of their needs. Further, customizing the testing product and giving them relevant data will engage them thoroughly and give valuable results.

5. Don’t Be On The Lookout For Logos

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Asking for logo choices in usability testing is not valuable as it varies as per the perspective and will not give a concrete outcome. Logos stand synonymous with the identity of the brand and conducting tests to determine the suitable choice is actually a vague approach. The representative users if unaware about the message it aims to propagate then would not be able to contribute towards implied results. They may pay less attention to the text and more to the colors whatever they find appealing thus defeating the whole purpose behind the design of the logo. Logos are important as they constitute of the primary stage of interacting with the consumers. So, it is important to establish an identity with precision and just not on random basis with the participants taking part in the usability tests. Logos should be decided with a joint take by the partners, customers and stakeholders rather than being dictated by the testing users.

6. Be As Specific As Possible

By paying attention to finer details the usability testing process can generate smooth sessions and create less blocks in the channel. Going for finer aspects keeps the participants involved and thinking as they evaluate each and every option. Generic data cannot produce results that can be implemented for improvement or change of the website.

7. Logo Designs Are Not Meant For Random Choices

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If you think that you have got users to click on the multiple design options in the usability tests that unfortunately you are going on a passive track with regard to the design. Whether a curve suit or a line or if lower case suits or upper case, this is not the thing to be decided by these tests. It is better to consider the opinion of the customers or the clients rather than going for the viewpoints of a random group. Follow the reactions given by the potential customers. Appointing a random demographic size of people the task of suggesting the logo design is not a successful way to go about it. Take care of the target, that is, the potential or the loyal consumers. If feedback is what you are going after, the best people to highlight those are the clients and the customers.

8. Hard Work Pays Off

A proper insight while testing always works as it clearly defines the target. Data should be thoroughly evaluated while customizing prototypes so as to have a clear idea of the user behavior. Nevertheless, customizing the prototypes is not a mandatory requirement and varies product to product. Keep the data as relevant as possible as then only the user will be able to relate to it and ultimate help in addressing issues that require changes on the website.

9. The Best Cannot Point Towards Business

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Whether the purchase was satisfactory or the store proves to the best of the expectations is not something that usability tests can measure accurately. Thinking of judging the business metrics by way of such kind of feedback is not a good idea. The most popular Yes/No test is the easiest to get a click on but is not complete in itself as it gives quantitative figures as to how many favor and how many do not do so. But there is no answer to what all should be done to improve or modify the current position. So, recording the number of Yes or No will definitely not correspond to any other substantial information required to make a change and therefore, no business strategies can be as such devised from it.

10. Testing Is Just Not QA Task

Usability testing is much wider in its approach and does not revolve just around the QA tasks. It defines the experience of the users, their likes, dislikes and their mindset while performing. It provides raw data after studying the participants that can be used to make the user interaction better and give suggestions to make an application more usable.

11. Rule out Similar Options

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Conducting tests that are identical in nature will be of no use as it will confuse the target and they will not be able to grasp the scenario well. The target group expects interactions that are straightforward and have clear answers so as to respond and take an action accordingly. Such kind of parallel tasks can be annoying for the representative users as they will not be able to pick out what all is different in these tests.

12. Usability Test Plan Is Important

Before going for the process, it is essential to make a brief usability checklist that gives the clients and the other stakeholders an idea of the scope of the testing without elaborating much on the unnecessary details. It will mention the area and the type of the test, the date, background, goals, research questions, methodology, participants and schedule.

13. Decide The Areas For A/B Tests

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It is important to decide the type of tests that fall in the usability category. For instance, if the tests stand somewhat same with a change in the ultimate call to action then such tests should be taken for A/B testing as they will derive better results. A/B testing takes into account each participant’s performance rather than the group to finish the test. Such tests also involve real consumers and clients instead of random people taking the test who may not use the product again.

14. Avoid Giving Task Hints

Giving cues to the participants that leads to the answers takes away the whole purpose of testing as those tasks where meant to solve by them. Make sure not to reveal any task performing actions so as to know and judge the understand-ability level of the variants. Let the participants perform and work for the task rather than giving them ready cues as it will not give accurate feedback.

15. Incorrect Tests Can Deter The Purpose

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Usability tests that are framed incorrectly and do not define the situation fail to accomplish successful results. Create a proper scenario by letting the test takers imagine the situation. Be clear in describing the tasks so that the variants can perform accordingly and take the call-to-action. For example, a five second test might ask them to describe the best feature or the company’s area of function. Even for click tests, tell the group to click by stating it in front of them so as to avoid confusion. User tends to be lost if the directions are mingled or not given and hence, cannot take the action which is expected out of him. Showing similar images or pictures by way of tests will hinder the usability judgment as the task does not pinpoint towards clear definition and leaves the user directionless.

16. Let The Order Not Pose A Problem

It is always advised that the tasks should be flexible and not dependent on each other. The order should be acceptable to change so that the variants can perform the next task even if they were not successful in doing the previous one. However, in some cases involving logical progression, order is a major determinant and cannot be varied as the results can be derives after the completion of one task.

17. Go For Suitable Tests That Derives Outcomes

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Tests should be fixed in such a manner that they hit the bull’s eye and clearly define the take of the participants. Whether it should be a five second test or a click test, the purpose of both should be clearly marked. A five second test is generally for the noteworthy things and asks an opinion on the exclusive elements. It kind of gives the outcome that the first impression has casted and also the understandability level achieved so far. On the other hand, a click test is used to give the perspective on the setting or the design and tells how well the tasks are being performed. Mixing both the tests together may not prove worthy as it will not state the accurate action that is to be undertaken. The participants should know which route to adopt during these tests.

18. Avoid Testing For The Titles

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A lot of UX specialists go for testing headline copy through usability tests. These are generally five-second tests which require the participants to go through all the headlines in the fixed time. Now, such kind of tests should not be time bound as it is difficult to read all the headlines in a short span of time. In case of a product oriented site, click tests can determine how far the headlines can generate clicks whereas in case of content oriented site, it is best for the editor to take the decision as he can decide the role of the headline more aptly than the variants.

19. Testing Does Not Include Domain Names

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Usability tests are more specific to the target audience on the various features related with the website. Using these tests for a broader aspect such as domain name will not lead you to a favorable result as there are other factors to be considered along. You cannot blindly follow the choice of the participants as it does not guarantee usability in any case.

20. Going For High Fidelity Prototypes

Testing can prove worthwhile if done on high fidelity prototypes. Prototypes involving a blend of Axure and HTML/JavaScript code give more insightful and fruitful outcomes. Such outcomes benefit as they help to bring changes and refine the products in such a manner that the site reaches the mark in usability and the user gets the most satisfactory experience.

Conclusion

Going with the test protocol, usability tests should be set in a manner that is effective and gives accurate data. Defining the very purpose of testing is important so as to clearly know the scope and extent and for selecting the most suitable audience. Make sure that the right tests are fixed as per the nature of the tasks so that they stand in tune with the outcomes or highlight the loopholes you are trying to study. Usability tests are very valuable in identifying problems that are already there or the potential troubles that can arise. Testing is an ongoing process and should be continued even after the solutions are derived to get an idea of the success rate. Testing although subjected to maximum unpredictability works best when applied in the real conditions. Surely, a truly dynamic process. With testing, yes, there is no end.

 

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Prince Pal

UI UX Consultant Helping Digital Startups & Stakeholders Grow Their Business at Think 360 Studio
For 15+ years I have designed, developed and marketed websites/apps startups in New York, California, Florida and in India. Always focused on great User Interface is key.