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.
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.