So you’ve constructed your first app? If you think your target market will instantly understand how to use it and fall madly in love with it’s interface, you’re in for a surprise.
Usability testing is a great way to ensure that your new app is ready for launch and won’t frustrate or annoy your end users.
Usability testing is the evaluation of an app —or any product — based on how easy it is for real customers to use.
In a series of hands-on tests, users are asked to do specific tasks under controlled conditions. During these tests, a researcher/observer records the progress and asks questions to see where problems occur and how the user is processing the experience within the app. The feedback gathered will result in a prioritized list of recommendations on usability factors to improve within your app.
The primary objective of the usability test is to comprehend how real customers use your app and what their experience is while using it — and then use these insights to improve the user experience(UX) of your app.
For the best results, conduct these tests at various stages during your app development process — when you have a minimum viable product, when your app has a working beta version, etc.— not just at the end. After all, you don’t want to launch a product that gives uses a negative experience.
In order to perform an effective usability test, you need to:
Appoint internal team members to act as researchers / observers / facilitators who administer the test tasks to the user groups. These individuals will then record the proceedings and the feedback that users give.
You will require one or more user groups, providing each group with their own sets of tasks to perform, to conduct a successful usability test. Have each group reflect on how they typically use your app.
For example, if you have general users as well as admins using your app, the test tasks should be different for each group.
What is usability testing without the actual tests?
A. List down 5 to 10 tasks that your user groups need to perform within a set time frame (usually from 1 to 1.5 hours). These tasks are your most common or most important user goals — from registering an account to using a core feature.
If you’ve already done a task analysis, all you need to do is take the most crucial goals — the ones at the top of your hierarchical task analysis diagram — and assign them to your user groups.
B. Each task must have an accompanying explanation for the researcher to share with the group. Try not to deviate from the original explanation or you might compromise the integrity of the test.
C. Don’t forget to establish how these tasks will be graded. What criteria makes the execution of a task successful or unsuccessful?
During the testing period, have the researchers administer one task at a time by reading out the explanation of what the user has to do. Then let the user figure things out without further guidance.
As the user is performing the task, the researcher may ask them to talk through certain steps. What is the user trying to accomplish? How is the user making a decision at each point?
Additionally, the tests should be recorded using screen recording software so that the sessions can be referred to in the future and replayed for other stakeholders.
After the testing concludes, your researchers will compile the data obtained through the recordings and session notes. The researchers should then:
There are plenty of usability testing methods to assess how user-friendly your app is. Some of them are even available to you on our blog. Here are some of the most popular methods:
This is a popular usability test where a user is in the same room as the researcher, or is being observed remotely via screen sharing software. The researcher asks the user to accomplish a set number of tasks while being monitored to track reaction, questions, difficulties, and so on.
A slight variation on the moderated test, this is where your user simply performs without a physical observer. They still have tasks to accomplish but no one is looking over their shoulder in real time. The data from the user’s device is then captured and sent to your team for analysis.
Another variation of the moderated test, focus group discussions, involve a group of 5 to 10 users in a single room using the app, then discussing any issues they experience within the app.
This test measures a user’s first impressions and whether the user interface and app design communicates the right message.
This test tells you what a user would click on first within your app’s UI to complete a specified task.
Beta testing,typically called early stage testing, is the process of testing a nearly completed version of the product (sometimes with a barebones UI) to see if it’s usable before more development work is done. It’s a minimum viable product — one that is meant to check usage, catch early bugs, and basically prove that an idea is worth sinking more resources into.
The idea is simple: test a single variation in your UX against a control sample and see if there is any significant improvement in audience engagement (or any other marketing metric that matters for growth) due to the variation. An improvement can signify better usability, or a better overall user experience.
For further reading on A/B testing, check out these resources:
A heuristic evaluation is an analysis of your app’s usability by using 10 pre-selected criteria. It’s conducted by 3 professional UX consultants who are outside your team to remain unbiased.
To discover what those 10 criteria (or heuristics) are, we covered them in depth here: Improve Your App’s UX Using 10 Usability Heuristics
Although not as detailed as other forms of testing, surveys and questionnaires are easy to do, and they provide quick, usable feedback on your app.
When constructed properly, surveys allow you to collect a large amount of information quickly, regardless of your users’ skill level. .
There are a wide variety of tools to get this done, including Google Forms, SurveyMonkey, and WuFoo.
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In the end, what is the purpose of a usability test but to use real customer input to figure out where to improve your app. When you perform effective usability tests, you get insights faster and can provide data-backed recommendations on how to turn your app’s UX into a delightful experience that users want to return to.