Usability Testing User Experience (UX) topic overview/definition

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is the practice of testing how easy a design is to use on 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, from user interfaces to physical products. It is often conducted repeatedly, from early development until a product’s release.

The main benefit and purpose of usability testing is to identify usability problems with a design as early as possible, so they can be fixed before the design is implemented or mass produced. As such, usability testing is often conducted on prototypes rather than finished products, with different levels of fidelity (i.e., detail and finish) depending on the development phase. Prototypes tend to be more primitive, low-fidelity versions (e.g., paper sketches) during early development, and then take the form of more detailed, high-fidelity versions (e.g., interactive digital mock-ups) closer to release.

In a typical usability test, a test moderator gives test participants a series of tasks that they must perform with the design. The tasks represent actions that an end user would typically carry out with the finished product. During the test, the moderator observes each participant’s actions, often also recording the test session on video. After analyzing the results of a usability test, the moderator reports on several points of interest that arose—these include issues such as the aspects of the design that caused problems and the severity of these problems, as well as places in the design that the participants particularly liked. Recognizing this potential to highlight difficulties and strong points in a design’s early versions is a vital part of a designer’s thought process. The broader the testing and the greater the number of matters raised, the stronger the likelihood that designers can craft more successful products.

Literature on Usability Testing

Here’s the entire UX literature on Usability Testing by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Usability Testing

Take a deep dive into Usability Testing with our course Conducting Usability Testing.

Do you know if your website or app is being used effectively? Are your users/customers completely satisfied with the experience? What is the key feature that makes them come back? In this course, you will learn methods by which to answer such questions, and with confidence, too—through being able to justify your answers with solid evidence.

Great usability is one of the key factors in keeping your users engaged and satisfied with your website or app. With 86% of time on mobiles being spent within apps1 and 79% of users abandoning websites if the usability is poor2, it is crucial that usability testing is continually undertaken and perceived as a core part of the development process in order to prevent abandonment and dissatisfaction. Hand in hand with that, designers have another vital duty—taking the time to step back so as to place the user back at the center of the development process and evaluate any underlying assumptions. Designers sometimes find spotting such things from within their product bubble hard; therefore, they need to conduct usability testing so as to ensure users aren’t left behind.

This course is built on evidence-based approaches, as well as solid evidence, distilled from decades of research and practice. The course is taught by the CEO of, Frank Spillers, who is a distinguished speaker, author, and internationally respected Senior Usability practitioner.

All literature

Agile Usability Engineering

Ch 40: Agile Usability Engineering

Agile Usability Engineering is a concept to describe a combination of methods and practices of agile development and usability engineering. Therefore, this entry commences with a brief note on agile methods. In recent years, agile methods for software and web engineering have reached widespread acceptance in the community. In contrary to class...

Book chapter