Put simply, usability testing is a method of testing if a website/page or app is ready for release through testing with real end-users. Users partaking in the usability study will be assessed as to how easily they completed a set of pre-determined tasks that have been identified as the key measures of success of the new website/page/app.
Real world users will be recruited to participate in usability testing, these will ideally be target users who are in the market for the product. These users will then be set a series of tasks to complete in controlled conditions. For example finding a specific product and making a purchase, creating an account, or completing a form.
Whilst the users recruited for the testing complete the series of tasks, their actions are tracked and recorded. This is usually done through click/mouse tracking, though eye tracking can also be used and the session is normally captured on video too. This data is then used to measure the success of the user in completing the tasks and analysed for how the development could be improved based on these observations.
There are several different methodologies that can be used usability testing Some of the key ones are detailed below:
Card sorting is a method used to help design or evaluate the information architecture of a site, most commonly for taxonomy or navigation structure. In a card sorting session, participants organise topics into categories that make sense to them and they may also help you label these groups. To conduct a card sort, you can use actual cards, pieces of paper, or one of several online card-sorting software tools.
This type of test is normally run on site or at a designated venue using conference/meeting rooms and will feature a small group or individual target users. As per normal usability testing conditions users are given a set of tasks to complete, however with an in-person test observers can interact with users at any point to ask questions and gather further insight. This methodology of usability testing is often more normally completed by the user research team as part of a larger research study.
This methodology of testing has users complete the series of tasks in their own environment with the session normally being captured by in browser webcam tools. Although this type of usability testing is remote moderators can often still interact with the user verbally through the web browser tool being used for the testing.
The AB testing methodology splits users into different variations of a live website/app. User conversion data across a number of metrics is then captured and calculated to determine the statistically significant winner/variation with a higher conversion rate.
The importance of usability testing is being able to see and understand how real-world users interact and to take learnings from this.
Even the most experienced designers lean on usability testing as something that may appear obvious to them may not be as obvious to an actual end-user. As such without this real-world user experience you might find yourself releasing something that users struggle to interact with, and subsequently end up exiting your site to use a competitor.
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