6 Steps to Successful Usability Testing
Design is in the spotlight currently. With multinational companies realizing the returns on good design and investing in it generously, there is no denying that design is a focus area in most organizations today. The ROI on design is estimated to be over 228% and has given rise to the recruitment of designers in all fields. However, designers are given business objectives based on which, they design products. This means that the products are primarily aligned with the needs of the business and not the users. So how do we make sure that the designed products and services are user-centric? This is where UX comes into play. Most companies conduct user testing and usability testing in order to develop user-centric products.
User testing is the way to ensure that we create products that work, and work for the people. User testing is known as a lot of things: usability testing, product testing, design viability, ux testing etc. but the end goal is the same, to test how the users interact with the design.
This interaction and the results of the usability tests can heavily affect the success of a product and catapult the business into profit making.
It happens way too often that halfway through usability testing, people realize that this is not the direction that they had hoped to take at all. At which point, they have no option but to start from scratch. To avoid this, here is a roadmap to successful user testing that will ensure that you obtain valuable design feedback from real users in the least possible amount of time.
Step 1: Plan thoroughly
Usability test plan is undoubtedly the most crucial step in the whole process. In this stage, ensure that you have clearly defined goals. Do you want to collect qualitative data or quantitative data? Do you want the users to interact with the navigation or the aesthetic? These answers will lead you to build the right prototype for user testing.
You need to limit your goals in order to get clear, concise, and specific results out of your testing. You then need to define the scope of your test. It can be broad and ask general questions like which pages are the most user-friendly, or which feature is the easiest to use on the app. Or it can use more specific questions like what is limiting the users from checking out; or what is hindering conversions.
Plan the usability testing and analysis phase. Based on your objectives, decide the format of your test result compiling. This will allow the process to speed up and be efficient.
Step 2: Have your prototype or product ready to Test
Usability testing is often done in the primary stages of development. Which means that we do not have the final product to test. Usability testing is done in the initial stages to identify roadblocks or changes that would cost a lot in the final stages of development. However, we still need the product upon which the test can be conducted. Most businesses build a prototype for this purpose. It can be a website with limited functionality or a demo app. But having a prototype which is true to the vision of the final product is important for the usability testing procedure to have any effect on the development.
You need to be absolutely clear about which functionalities and features you want to test and build the prototype accordingly to ensure a smooth test.
Step 3: Find the right users for testing
The first step to recruiting the right users is identifying your target audience. Not everyone is the target audience for say, an online toy store. For enterprise products, this step is somewhat simpler, as the target audience is pre-defined and all you need to do is identify a good mix of users to recruit for testing. Although, for enterprise products, there can be multiple sets of users. Which makes it important for you to recruit from each set or as many as possible.
It is absolutely crucial that the users you recruit relate to the problems that you are trying to solve. In order to achieve that, ensure that you do not recruit anyone working on the project as a user. This makes sure that the users are not biased against or in favor of a certain feature, or page.
Step 4: Conducting usability test
The actual testing is usually the most fun part of the whole test. Make sure that you conduct the usability test in a place free from distractions. Weed out any logistical problems in advance, such as poor connection, or recording issues etc. Having a dry run should take care of these issues.
During the usability testing process, make sure that you do not influence the opinion of the users in any way. Do not ask them questions that lead them to a particular answer like Do you think this page is too bright? For your questions in a neutral manner. Also, do not look for feedback on the test. The objective of the test is to get the task done rather than to check what they think is the best color for the dashboard.
Lastly, make sure you record the test as well as take notes. You can invite another team member to take notes if you want to observe the test.
Step 5: Document the tests well
The tests will do you no good if you do not document it to the T. Once you are done with the tests, compile the results for analysis. Summarize your findings in preset formats. Refer to the test recordings to fill any gaps in your findings. Since you have covered the formats and processes for the documentation beforehand, this step will occur naturally throughout the process of testing.
Step 6: Analysis and repeat
Based on your test results, work with your designers and/or product managers to analyze the findings. Keep an open mind towards the test as some finding may be completely opposite to your assumptions. That is the point of user testing, don’t get too attached to the design. Improve based on the results and feedback of the test. You can highlight the issues that come up in the test in your reports and use them as a starting point for the next versions.
It is important that you conduct usability tests often to achieve the maximum benefits from the whole process. If you plan ahead and plan for contingencies, usability tests can be very easy to set up and can easily be integrated into your development cycle.
Keep testing, and improving, for the benefits are tremendous. It is a well-known fact that Jeff Bezos invested 100 times more in usability testing than in marketing in the first year of launching Amazon. It has been studied that the initial research on user patterns has been the key to Amazon’s success over the years. Amazon has an incredible conversion rate and exceptionally high customer retention. It is safe to believe that usability testing is a key process for the success of any product or service today.