Usability testing plays a critical role in the creation of products and services by allowing developers to find potential problems before the product goes to the wider market.
In addition to finding problems that could disrupt usage, usability testing also allows developers to find opportunities to improve what they’ve created so they can maximize their ability to reach their target market. Additionally, user testing can help developers gain greater insight into the preferences of the target market, which will help to better meet the needs of their audience.
For example, if you want to create an e-commerce app to help customers engage with your store, employing user testing as a research method will help you ensure your customers can navigate it seamlessly.
We will explore the steps you should follow as you prepare to organize a user test for your product or service—as well as the different types of tests you might choose to employ—to help you improve your product design process and maximize the user experience of your real users when you release your software.
1. Define the goals of the test
Before you move any further through the process, you need to determine what precisely you want to measure and what metrics you will use to measure your success or failure. For example, you might want to detect:
- Can test participants complete a designated task using your program? Do they find it intuitive to complete, or do they experience frustrations?
- How much time does it take for users to complete a designated test? How does this align with industry standards and customer expectations?
- Do people experience any errors as they move around your product or service?
Typically, people creating a designated testing process will look for one of two main types of results with a given test. You will want to uncover either:
- Qualitative results, which measure opinions, subjective experiences, and user insights into your goal.
- Quantitative results, which measure more objective results, such as the success rate or the time it takes to complete a task.
Remember that if your product or service has undergone significant changes during development and it has more complex processes, you may need to run more than one functionality test. Each test can provide you with insight into a specific aspect of the customer experience.
2. Select a testing method
Once you know what you want your test to examine, select a user testing method. Your method should align with your measuring goals.
For example, if you want to compile insight into users’ opinions as they navigate your new program, then methods such as in-depth interviews and focus groups might work well. If you want to test how long it takes customers to figure out how to accomplish a given task on your site, then a method like eye movement tracking and timed task completion might work better.
The testing method you choose will greatly impact the success of your test. You also want to make sure you know whether your test will be moderated or unmoderated and how this setup will impact the test plan.
For example, testers will have less ability to control the process of an unmoderated test, but some find that this can feel more like real life and offer more valuable results.
As you select your testing process, you also need a way to collect and analyze your test results.
For example, for remote testing, you might elect to use a video recording or screen recording to capture the participant’s screen, so you know how they interact with your product. You want to have a concrete plan concerning how you will incorporate the results from your user testing into your product development process so that you can correct any potential usability issues.
Let’s explore the core types of usability tests.
Individual in-depth interviews
An individual interview provides you with an excellent way to solicit personalized responses directly from individuals in the target audience.
However, since only one subject can be tested at a time, it is also the longest method to complete. You need to invest time and energy in training someone to ask the necessary questions and follow the script so that they do not inadvertently influence the answers recorded.
While your team members conduct interviews, they watch how participants can complete specific tasks and see if any observable body language provides additional insight into their opinions on your mobile app or other project.
Remote user testing
Remote user testing allows you to test people from a variety of locations without having to worry about their physical location. In other words, you can get test subjects from locations thousands of miles apart.
You can also create an easier setup for participants, as they can participate in the test in a comfortable setting of their choice. If they want to participate quickly over their lunch break during the workday, they can. This can make it easier to connect with people regardless of location, so you can make sure your UX design aligns with the needs of a variety of customers.
A/B testing is an excellent choice for developers to have in their arsenal. With A/B testing, you create two nearly identical pages of a particular website or program with just subtle changes between the two. For example, they might have slightly different phrasing in the call to action.
You show these pages to visitors of your site or application at random. For example, if you redesign your website and want to see how many people click on your new CTA versus the old CTA, you might run an A/B test.
Say you want to test 1,000 visitors to the site.
The first 1,000 visitors will be shown one of the two versions of the website in random order. You will then see if there are any differences in the percentage of people in one group clicking on the CTA versus the second group. You will then know which version of the site will be more beneficial to keep live.
Eye movement tracking
Eye movement tracking methods use software that helps you see where many people focus their eyes on your website as they navigate.
Eye movement tracking software can help you better understand which elements interest people the most. The goal is to have people look where you want them to look to complete a given task. This technology helps you to understand how well you did at creating an intuitive design.
Focus groups allow you to take a small group of users and moderate a discussion between them. These interactive discussions allow you to solicit immediate feedback from actual users to gauge their perceptions of your product and what they wish you did differently.
3. Select users
Once you determine what type of test works best for your criteria, you’ll need to find users who can help you complete the test. It’s important that the users you select represent your targeted customer demographic.
For example, if you want to test a new app design that will help people shop at your store, you want to select people in your target audience, and not other web or app developers, to test your product. Using fellow developers may make it harder to uncover potential issues that actual users would encounter because they are more adept at troubleshooting potential issues without having to think much about it.
Look carefully at your target user persona to build the demographic requirements of your testing group. Conduct user research to better understand the type of people who will be the most likely to use your product. This will help you further zero in on the users’ needs as you complete the design phase of your project. Consider factors such as:
- Age and gender
- Education and technical proficiency of the user
- Profession and income
- Anything else that is particular to your product
Keep in mind that your test group will also achieve better test results if the people participating in the test are not already steady customers. Those who really like your company may already have some experience or instincts about how to complete certain tasks that new users might not have. You want your UX research to help you create an intuitive workflow, which requires objectivity from all the team members.
4. Create task scenarios
After finding your users, you’ll need to begin constructing your test. It’s critical that you pay attention to how you ask questions during the test to avoid unintentionally introducing bias to the process.
Asking the questions in a leading way, even entirely unintentionally, can give hints about what you want to test or provide users with insights about how they can complete a given task.
Therefore, as you create the test scenario, you want to carefully review the questions to ensure they remain vague and introduce as little information as possible about your goals or what you want users to discover by themselves.
You also want to make sure you minimize the number of directions you offer so that your test subjects understand their goal but are given as much freedom as possible to operate according to their own instincts and perceptions.
5. Moderate the test
Once you have determined the process you will use to create the test, it’s time to create a test environment and moderate the test. Determine how you will set up the environment and then be sure that each test participant receives the same environment.
For example, if you want someone to navigate your website and make a purchase for a new bathing suit, then you need to write out an exact script that you can follow for every participant. To obtain maximum accuracy in your testing, you want to make sure that every participant receives exactly the same instructions, word for word. Ad-libbing this process can be tempting, but it’s easier than you might think to accidentally slip and let out a word or phrase that provides some participants with more information than others.
To keep your testing environment consistent, use scripts to make sure that everyone receives the same instructions and information before beginning.
You can then use a webcam to watch participants complete the tasks if you aren’t doing the testing in person.
6. Document the results
Once you complete the test, you will bring together all of your different results and begin to compile and analyze them.
See how well your users were able to complete their targeted task or otherwise navigate your product. Compare your results with what you expected to find. Discuss your results with the rest of your development team and see what might need to be corrected to make your product even more suited to your customers’ needs with user-centered design.
Get user testing the easy way
A usability testing session is an optimal way for you to make sure that your website, app, or other project is ready for release to your customers. Fortunately, Upwork’s Project Catalog™ makes it easier than ever to achieve your goal.
Reach out to Upwork’s qualified, independent professionals who will help you run your usability test and uncover the insights you need to help your product thrive. Get started now and see how easy it is to create the usability test that you need.
You can also browse the rest of Upwork’s Project Catalog to see how experienced independent contractors can be an asset to your team.
If you are an experienced professional with the skills needed to help companies run their user tests, the Upwork platform can help you find clients to build your freelance business. With Upwork, you can browse listings, bid on jobs, maintain a portfolio, and manage existing projects, giving you the tools you need to become an effective freelancer. Get started building your freelance career on Upwork now.
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