Usability testing, or user testing as it is often called, evaluates the usability and UX of an interface through observing real users.
User testing is a practical activity to assess a variety of aspects of an interface including concepts, interaction models, visual design, content and information architecture. It is a critical step to assessing the progress of new designs and for evaluating existing products and websites.
Ultimately, usability testing informs the design of products, websites and interfaces that are effective for your customers and are easy to use.
Usability testing leads to:
- Feedback on the effectiveness of the product to help steer the product direction and identify improvements.
- Saving time by getting the product right early in the process. It is substantially less costly to alter the design early in a project than to alter the code after launch or late in a project.
- Data to inform the design direction instead of opinions.
- Better products. Testing provides the information and insights needed to design products that are more effective and easier to use.
An example setup for usability testing a website. It includes a webcam to record the participant’s expressions as they undertake tasks on a website.
How does it work?
In-person moderated usability testing usually involves six or more participants, representative of your audience or target market, completing multiple tasks on the website or app while thinking aloud. The tasks typically reflect the most common or important activities visitors conduct on the site. Skilled facilitators moderate the session, being careful not to influence their behaviour but asking questions to fully explore their experience of the product. The facilitator and a note taker observe and record the participants behaviour focusing on identifying issues with the interface that inhibit users completing tasks.
When to run user testing?
This tends to depend on the individual project and timeframes. For new websites and apps usability testing is ideally run on multiple occasions throughout the design and build of a product; starting with multiple rounds on early prototypes, and then on a pre-production site. Products and websites that are in market also benefit from being tested periodically. We suggest even successful sites and products benefit from an annual check-up to ensure they continue to meet user expectations and are working effectively.
Where to run it?
Nomat has a dedicated usability testing facility within our office in South Melbourne. The space has been designed to support testing with a sound proofed room that provides a comfortable and informal setting for participants to feel at ease. We also have a light-filled viewing area for stakeholders to attend sessions where they can observe, discuss and use whiteboards to explore solutions. Getting the project team and key stakeholders off-site to view a few sessions in our space is a great way to engage everyone in the process.
Nomat provides a space for viewing testing sessions that can accommodate up to 10 people. The video streaming is customised for each project and typically includes a video and audio feed from the testing room and a close up of the interface being tested.
Usability testing is a window into your users’ world and the video recordings are a compelling communication tool.
Each session is recorded so that it can be shared with stakeholders and teams within the broader organisation. The videos capture the experience of a real person and are an effective way to communicate identified issues and support decision making. Participants are asked to think aloud as they complete tasks which provides an understanding of their behaviour and thought process. This offers valuable insights that can inform improvements to a website or product, as well as increasing an organisation’s understanding of their audiences needs.
This example recording of a participant undertaking a usability testing session demonstrates how they think aloud while undertaking the task. The recording captures their facial expressions as well as their pathway through the website, highlighting their clicks in a yellow circle.
Eye-tracking and other options
User testing can include a number of variations depending on your needs. This includes eye tracking services for mobile and desktop interfaces. Online remote unmoderated usability testing is another option where are larger sample size is needed to increase the confidence in the findings.
The outcome from a round of usability testing is documentation that captures usability issues that have been identified including specific, realistic and actionable recommendations for their remedy. Reporting typically includes a summary report which is useful for your developers and a detailed report for your project team and stakeholders. A presentation and highlight video of participants undertaking some tasks to communicate issues that were identified is usually included. Where necessary we include wireframes to explain the proposed design solutions.
The team at Nomat have run thousands of usability tests across a broad range of products and industries. Recently we have conducted usability testing for Coles, Myer, Treasury Wine Estates and the Victorian Government among others. We are experienced in eye tracking studies as well as unmoderated usability testing. We offer flexibility in our approach to meet your needs. Our team are designers as well as researchers which means that we can translate issues into effective design solutions and actionable recommendations.
If you would like to discuss your project needs please get in touch.