Usability Testing

Your constantly-updated definition of Usability Testing and collection of topical content and literature

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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 completely satisfied with the experience? What is the key feature that makes them come back? In this course, you will learn how to answer such questions—and with confidence too—as we teach you how to justify your answers with solid evidence.

Great usability is one of the key factors to keep your users engaged and satisfied with your website or app. It is crucial you continually undertake usability testing and perceive it as a core part of your development process if you want to prevent abandonment and dissatisfaction. This is especially important when 86% of time on mobiles is spent within apps1 and 79% of users will abandon a website if the usability is poor2! As a designer, you also have another vital duty—you need to take the time to step back, place the user at the center of the development process and evaluate any underlying assumptions. It’s not the easiest thing to achieve, particularly when you’re in a product bubble, and that makes usability testing even more important. You need to ensure your users aren’t left behind!

As with most things in life, the best way to become good at usability testing is to practice! That’s why this course contains not only lessons built on evidence-based approaches, but also a practical project. This will give you the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned from internationally respected Senior Usability practitioner, Frank Spillers, and carry out your own usability tests.

By the end of the course, you’ll have hands-on experience with all stages of a usability test project—how to plan, run, analyze and report on usability tests. You can even use the work you create during the practical project to form a case study for your portfolio, to showcase your usability test skills and experience to future employers!

All literature

7 Great, Tried and Tested UX Research Techniques

7 Great, Tried and Tested UX Research Techniques

Thinking about conducting some user research? Wondering which techniques are most likely to provide useful results? Then look no further. We’ve compiled a list of 7 excellent techniques which are tried and tested and have been proven to deliver real value in UX projects. Let’s take a look at each technique and see what it is and why it works: T...

  • 270 shares
  • 8 months ago
How to Conduct a Cognitive Walkthrough

How to Conduct a Cognitive Walkthrough

Cognitive walkthroughs are used to examine the usability of a product. They are designed to see whether or not a new user can easily carry out tasks within a given system. It is a task-specific approach to usability (in contrast to heuristic evaluation which is a more holistic usability inspection). The idea is that if given a choice – most user...

  • 286 shares
  • 2 years ago
How to Conduct User Observations

How to Conduct User Observations

Observing users interacting with a product can be a great way to understand the usability of a product and to some extent the overall user experience. Conducting observations is relatively easy as it doesn’t require a huge amount of training and it can be relatively fast – depending on the sample size of users you intend to observe.Author/Copyri...

  • 179 shares
  • 1 month ago
Mobile Usability Research – The Important Differences from the Desktop

Mobile Usability Research – The Important Differences from the Desktop

It’s important to remember that while we may use the same methods for mobile usability research as we use for other types of usability research; the mobile environment is different to the environment at the desktop. This means being aware of the context and adapting research to take advantage of that context. It’s not so much learning new resear...

  • 526 shares
  • 1 year ago
How to Recruit Users for Usability Studies

How to Recruit Users for Usability Studies

You’re going to need to conduct usability studies at some point during your design work. That may be for a product or for an information visualization but if you don’t know whether your outputs are usable – you cannot begin to guarantee a user experience. Usability testing is so important that even presidents get involved (below you’ll see Barac...

  • 305 shares
  • 1 year ago
It Ain’t What You Do, It’s the Way That You Do It – Mobile App Usability Best Practices

It Ain’t What You Do, It’s the Way That You Do It – Mobile App Usability Best Practices

There are best practices for mobile usability as there are best practices for usability on other platforms. These best practices are not a substitute for user research and usability testing; they are intended as a “quick start” guide to get your designs moving in the right direction. There are no absolute rules in usability design and your users...

  • 646 shares
  • 2 years ago
Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing (URUT) - Every Step You Take, We Won’t Be Watching You

Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing (URUT) - Every Step You Take, We Won’t Be Watching You

Unmoderated Remote Usability Testing (URUT) is a technique designed to help you overcome the downsides of moderated usability testing. While moderated usability testing is undeniably useful it suffers from the fact that it’s time consuming, it takes a lot of effort to recruit participants, the costs (due to all that time input) are usually too h...

  • 689 shares
  • 1 year ago
Making Use of the Crowd – Social Proof and the User Experience

Making Use of the Crowd – Social Proof and the User Experience

Social proof (sometimes referred to as informational social influence) is a psychological concept. It refers to the tendency of human beings to follow the actions of others when making decisions and placing weight on those actions to assume “the correct decision”. It’s a concept that can be used in product design for the Internet and mobile web ...

  • 355 shares
  • 1 month ago
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
Four Assumptions for Usability Evaluations

Four Assumptions for Usability Evaluations

Usability is a vital part of the user experience as a whole. It’s vital for UX design teams to be able to assess whether a system they’ve developed is “usable”. When we say “usable” what we normally mean is the “extent to which a system is simple and enjoyable to use”. Yet, as with all simple concepts the reality of conducting usability evaluati...

  • 313 shares
  • 3 years ago