Optimize Your Design with Usability Testing

Ellen Gregory

Just like Schrödinger's cat, you can’t possibly know the outcome until you test it. If you’re wondering, what does this have to do with usability testing? Let’s take a step back. Once you’ve designed your site or app, you need to expose it to the world, or at least expose it to a few users. Otherwise, how will you know it meets a user’s expectations? Simply put, you can’t!


Usability testing is all about trial and error, which means it’s an ongoing process that may need several stages of revisions. It’s intended to find how usable your interface is, whether it meets its intended purpose, and if it’s user-friendly. 


With the right usability testing methods, you’ll get invaluable insight based on direct input and real user interaction. Keep reading to find out why usability testing is the key to success and the ultimate guide to the best usability testing methods. 


usability testing
Get invaluable insight and real user interaction with usability testing.

The 411 on website usability testing 

If you’re considering usability testing, you’ve come to the right place! Designing a site that successfully achieves effectiveness, efficiency, and customer satisfaction is easier said than done. Usability testing is hands down one of the best ways to evaluate, tweak, and perfect your design or prototype.


usability testing methods
Get feedback on your design from real users.


It’s the process of measuring how user-friendly your website or app design is with real users by asking participants to complete a series of tasks during the initial planning phases. It mitigates the risk of building a site that doesn’t work because it finds problems when they’re still in the planning stages.


It also can lead to amazing ROI. Clare-Marie Karat, Ph.D. from the IBM Watson Research Center referenced a study in the book, Cost-Justifying Usability, that spent $20,700 on usability, which resulted in a $47,700 return on the first day! How? This method gives you concrete feedback to evaluate the effectiveness of your design, and what needs to be improved. 


what is usability testing?
Conduct usability testing during the low - mid fidelity wireframe phase.


Consider usability testing during the low - mid fidelity wireframe phase. However, this doesn’t have to be a hard and fast rule. It all depends on the objective and metrics. Although we recommend getting feedback as early as possible, you may find usability testing more valuable once you’ve reached the high fidelity wireframe. 


If it’s more beneficial to test a prototype that already looks like a finished product with a selected style and pixel perfect elements, go for it! This may consist of linked mockups including InVision, Sketch Mirror or Marvell app, or it might be an HTML layout with dummy data. 

Designed with users in mind


It’s important to note when designers are working closely on a project, they may be too close to recognize what needs to be improved. The solution could be right in front of your eyes, but you might not be able to pinpoint it. 


usability testing examples
Designers are often too close to recognize what needs to be improved.


Usability testing during the low to mid-fidelity prototype phase can help iron out some of these kinks. Since everything we design should always be designed with a user’s experience in mind, it makes perfect sense to get feedback from their hands-on experience. Whatever you choose, just ensure it makes the most sense for your users. 


Usability testing allows designers to take a step back in order to measure the success or pain points real users experience. This technique focuses on what the users do, and not just what the users say. 


website usability test
Measure how user-friendly your website or app design is with real users.


So how do you conduct and create a successful website usability testing? First and foremost, you need to define the scope of your project, the objectives, and establish the metrics. Defining these elements is one of the most important usability testing methods. 


Common metrics to evaluate include the time they take on a task, task performance, success rate, speed, goal fulfillment, expectation matching. Other metrics may be required, depending on the nature of your project. Then it’s time to recruit users. 


usability testing objectives
Define the scope of your project, the objectives, and establish the metrics.

Recruiting the right users


Recruiting the right users is key. Consider who your target market is and recruit accordingly. It can be performed according to their demographics, such as age, where they live, interests, marital status, etc. Another approach may be psychographics. This usability testing method considers whether or not they’re used to performing the proposed scenarios. 


audience targeting
Recruit the right demographic for your usability testing.


We recommend considering both aspects when recruiting but keep in mind that with psychographics, you’re more likely to get more relevant insights about the usage and adoption of your solution. When considering the number of recruits, consider your objectives. If your goal is to understand how users behave and gather quick insights, we suggest 5 users per segment. 

So you’ve got your recruits, you know your objectives, and you’ve established the metrics you want to evaluate.

 

Facilitating usability testing


Typically users are asked to complete tasks, while they are being observed. The facilitator is watching to gain insight into where the user encounters problems or experiences confusion. If several people encounter similar problems, it’s safe to say those are the aspects that need more work.


Tips and tricks to consider while conducting usability testing:


  • Ask your users to externalize thoughts and feelings while they interact with the prototype
  • Create a realistic environment where distractions are not eliminated
  • Takes structured and unstructured notes including what you see, hear, and the time they spend on a task
  • Make sure you record the session
  • Don’t explain or name specific buttons, elements or concepts
  • Don’t guide or help the participant perform the task
  • Remain objective throughout and avoid jumping to conclusions


Why is usability testing important?
Why is usability testing important? So you can observe the user and gain actionable insights.


The most important thing to keep in mind is our perceived notions and ideas about what we think is a good user experience isn’t the point. A successful study taps into how the user perceives the solution. This means, keep your reasoning behind certain design choices to your self. If a user doesn’t understand something without an explanation, then you need to consider a solution that will address that issue through your design. Just relax and listen.

How long should a usability test be?

This depends on the usability testing methods and objectives that you’re trying to achieve. How many metrics are you evaluating? 


To get a better idea for the length, we suggest asking yourself what you want to achieve before you begin planning out your test, and then, what are the different types of usability testing?

What are the different types of usability testing?

One of the most popular usability testing methods is the 5-second test. People make assumptions and judgments very quickly. The five-second test capitalizes on this notion by gathering insight and their impression based on the first five seconds of viewing a design. This can be an excellent way to determine what information users perceive and their impression of it. Does it communicate the right message? Attract the right audience? And so forth.


To conduct the 5-second test, scroll down the website page that testing to your target audience or focus group. Keep in mind that 5 seconds is not a mandatory time limit, so don’t feel the need to rush or restrict yourself. If you’re testing a longer landing page or app, you may require more time to collect and determine the user’s perception.


5 second usability test
What is a users impression based on the first five seconds of viewing a design?


Once you’ve finished scrolling down the page, ask participants a series of questions to help gain more insight. Questions can include:

  • What is the purpose of the page?
  • Can you recall the main elements?
  • Based on the design, describe the target audience.
  • Would you describe the design/brand as trustworthy? Why?
  • What is your overall impression of the design?

After you’ve completed the 5-second test, and gathered feedback, you will have a better idea as to whether your design clearly communicates it’s intended purpose.

 

Usability testing examples: Hallway testing

Other usability testing examples include hallway testing. This is a cheap alternative to hiring certified personnel or a focus people from a selected demographic or target audience. Exposing your prototype to a random group of willing individuals can help you identify some of the more difficult usability issues. 


If your office or building is large enough, this is a great way to gather a random group of individuals from other departments or projects. For a greater level of participation, entice participants with some snacks or cookies. 


usability testing examples
Expose your prototype to a random group of willing individuals.

Alt-text: usability testing examples hallway testing 

Caption: Expose your prototype to a random group of willing individuals.


During the hallway testing, keep the following in mind:

  • Ask your users to externalize thoughts and feelings while they interact with the prototype
  • Create a realistic environment and don’t minimize distractions
  • Takes notes on what you see, hear, and the time they spend on a task
  • Record the study
  • Don’t explain or name specific buttons, elements or concepts
  • Don’t guide or help the participant perform the task
  • Remain objective throughout and avoid jumping to conclusions

With CloudApp, you have the option of conducting usability testing remotely. This can be moderated or unmoderated. CloudApp's screen recorder makes it super simple to communicate and share your screen recording without having to upload to a third platform. Once you complete your video capture or webcam recording, a link is automatically copied to your clipboard that can be password protected and set to expire after any desired length of time.

What are the benefits of usability testing?


Here’s where we can really answer some of the more burning questions about website usability testing. Particularly, what are the benefits of usability testing? And, why is usability testing important? And most importantly, How do you analyze usability testing?


The overarching goal of usability testing is to ensure your design is optimized for users. After the user has completed the test, and you’ve had a chance to interview them, you have a ton of valuable feedback that will directly impact your design. So if you’re asking yourself, what are the benefits of usability testing? The feedback you get from actual users can be the difference between a successful design or a complete flop. 


usability a/b testing 
Use usability testing to reveal and catch design problems.


During usability testing for HelloSign, the test revealed major problems that may have otherwise been overlooked without user feedback. These discoveries and changes uncovered problems that allowed them to transform their design into a five-star product. 


Designing the ultimate user-friendly experience requires feedback from those users. Don’t underestimate the power of usability testing, as it can provide invaluable feedback, perfect solutions, and help you find problems that you may otherwise overlook. 


user friendly experience
Usability testing is a crucial part of the design process.

Conduct usability testing remotely


Usability testing is a crucial part of the design process. Rather than expecting perfection, expose your design to users with a testing session, and then evaluate, analyze the feedback and refine your design based on the feedback received.


Are you ready to conduct usability testing and get invaluable insight based on direct input and real user interaction? CloudApp is a great tool for instantly sharing your prototype with others. 


With CloudApp's GIF screen recording, simply share your screen recording, and get user feedback to improve your design in any phase. Once you complete your video or webcam recording, a link is automatically copied to your clipboard that can be password protected and set to expire after any desired length of time.

Learn more about CloudApp for Designers here.

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