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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 following usability standards and testing is a key process for the success of any product or service today.
But before we proceed to understand the nitty-gritty of usability testing, let us first step away from the above example and understand what enterprise SaaS products are. Enterprise software, also known as enterprise application software (EAS), is a computer software used to satisfy the needs of an organization rather than individual consumers. To that effect, enterprise product development was conventionally aimed at satisfying the needs of the organization rather than its users. They fundamentally helped run business functions with a ‘Get it Done’ motto. It is only in recent times that the enterprise product strategy has been aimed at realizing the untapped potential of user experience. As a result, these companies are experiencing
- Increased productivity
- Faster processes
- Seamless data portability
- Focus on innovation
- Happier and motivated workforce
Enterprise UX design is known to help and draw the right balance between the expectations of the business and the needs of the users. It helps drive the enterprise product management team to maximize their productivity through validated and scientific discoveries that are a part of its methodology.
Usability Testing for Enterprise Software
Being a scientifically driven method, a UX strategy validates the direction it is progressing in by testing the solutions with identified users. This is where usability testing (UT) steps in.
Usability testing definition as per Interaction Design is, usability testing is the practice of testing how easy a design is to use with a group of representative users. It usually involves observing users as they attempt to complete tasks and can be done for different types of designs. It is often conducted repeatedly, from early development until a product’s release.
What is the purpose of a usability test? In UX design usability testing helps keep the focus on the goals. Different tools for usability testing are put to use to check for specific insights. We, as an eUX agency, deeply value the importance of product user testing and have defined an in-house preamble that acts as a blanket rule for us and the clients to keep in mind.
Here are a few rules to be followed during the usability testing procedure –
1. Focusing on uncovering the challenges and opportunities through observations and questions.
2. Designing based on research (proven data) and science, as opposed to hunches.
3. Applying the science of usability principles while keeping the business goals in mind.
4. Making design decisions based on UT learnings.
Closely involved stakeholders can often be deeply influenced about what they believe is the right solution for the user, we internally refer to them as corrupt stakeholders and make sure that they stay away from the testing process. This is done strictly to avoid –
- Assuming on behalf of users.
- Stakeholders acting like users instead of actually involving legit users.
- Using a small sample size that is too small to arrive at a conclusion.
- Asking leading questions.
- Trying to design/solve during user interviews.
- Relying only on what users say and ignoring what they do.
- Getting attached to the current system/design and taking feedback personally.
With all of that said, there is an important aspect of user testing in the context of enterprise applications that draws the harsh reality of UX processes today and explains why it isn’t default in most UX strategies that drive enterprise UX. More and more product development teams are ignorant of the advantages of usability testing and view the process as a block. On the other hand, UT has acceptability from business stakeholders who appreciate the insights it brings to the table. However, more often than not, one gets to hear something like ‘we don’t have enough time for this’, or a few of the reasons listed below that we too tend to hear from our more willing takers –
1. Unavailability of users to test with or defining the right user group.
2. Geographic locations and building a testing infrastructure.
3. Choosing the right methods to test with.
4. Sources and means to rely on for user feedback and inputs.
We get it – in times where teams keep themselves on their toes to be agile, UT simply comes in like a mammoth excavation that can’t be rushed and with challenges as listed above, this it sounds more like something that could live in a book of ‘Ideal Design Practices’.
How to create a usability test plan
While we may not be able to draft a solution that caters to all, we have shaped up practices and processes which allow us to test along the way without falling into the whole UT dig we just talked about. Here are a few pointers to follow before getting started with user interface usability testing.
Choose your users with care
The eUX domain would often just not have users available to test with, one key point to note here is that you are not looking for the exact people that use the product. We are going to standardize them to a persona. People who belong to specific demographics, education, goals, and who perform similar functions. You might find individuals with subject matter expertise who could contribute to being your users. Just make sure that they are not the ones involved in the solutioning because that makes them biased and corrupt.
Use remote usability testing tools when required
While testing for eUX apps, remote usability testing is a perfectly viable option. There are devices and apps that let you create the right kind of infrastructure you need to help the user feel just as comfortable. Tools such as UserZoom, Usertesting.com, Maze, etc. are a few examples of remote user testing software.
Ensure you’re asking the right usability testing questions
Using the right usability testing methods, drafting tasks for users, and evaluating the right aspects of the solution are important. Fundamentally, testing is used for 2 types of validations, foundational and directional.
Foundational testing is relevant while pondering between high-level directions and concept-level directions. However, once that is nailed, the directional approach steps in this is just as important in the case of eUX apps. This makes sure that workflows are lean and usable by the users. Keep simple goals for directional checks to keep it focused.
Depending on what it is that you wish to test, you could choose between methods of usability testing like AB Testing, Eye Tracking, Mouse Movement Tracking, etc.
Examples of usability testing questions to ask
Should the user be navigated to a drill-down view from the list or keep it at the same level for contextual comparison?
We ran an A/B test of 20 users, and the contextual view performed 32% better.
Are there any usability issues with the wizard here?
We conducted a usability test with 8 participants and found 4 potential issues. We recommend that you –
(1) make the progress bar more prominent
(2) allow users to duplicate item configuration while adding in bulk
(3) indicate validation errors upfront
6 steps to successful usability testing
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
A 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 that 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 a 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 UX 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 them 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.
As design and user-centric approaches make their way into your product development life cycles, do not ignore the true value of UX that comes through insights. Constant validation of the proposed solution will let you keep up with the expectations of the user and help you bring about the best out of them.
UX is a cross-functional discipline and works dynamically to give you the best value.
For a true design culture to thrive, make sure you don’t mix your active solutioning and research teams together with the testing team. Allow them to focus and perform their own independent functions.
Be open to iterating and restarting, make space for innovation and ideas driven by insights to thrive. It is in these challenging conditions that some of the best solutions are conceived.
Good design practices are everyone’s responsibility, driving your decisions through UT insights will need all aspects of your teams to come together. Make sure the value is understood by all.
By integrating it into your process early on, your team will be able to adapt and innovate over the process to get it going for you.