It is more important to ask questions than it is to find answers. This is the basic idea behind usability testing (UT). Designers at Adobe say “UX researchers have developed many techniques over the years for testing and validating product hypothesis and particular design decisions.” It focuses on understanding how easy something is to use by giving it to real users to test.

A Better Understanding of UT

With UT, users are given complicated tasks to fulfill using a product. During the test, they are being observed by researchers. Researchers are concerned with where users find problems or experience confusion using a product. If multiple people run into the same roadblock with the product, recommendations can made on how to overcome these issues.

UT focuses on ease of use. For example, with a website, the goal may be to see how intuitive or usable the website is. They may give users a set of goals. Then they will look at how to make it easier for users to reach their goals. That’s the challenge with UT.

UT differs from traditional testing. Traditional testing is done by a designer, project manager, or developer. UT gets rid of the bias by taking the developing team out of the picture.

Common examples of UT include:

• Comparative UT: This is where a product is used and then compared to a competitor’s product.
• Explorative UT: Before a product gets released to the public, this form of testing gives developers feedback on content or functionality that should be added to a product to meet the actual needs of users.
• Usability Evaluation: This is where an update to a product or service is tested before it’s launched. Maybe a beta version of the product is released to a small group. Any issues can be highlighted and fixed before a massive launch.

Why Is UT So Important?

The purpose of UT is to identify how real users interact with the website of product and then make changes based on the results. If a website or product is difficult to navigate, customers will quickly leave and navigate to a competitor.

Interestingly, most people could care less about the functions that a website or product offers. If it requires too much effort, if it’s too frustrating, or if it’s just too hard, people will quickly abandon a product or service that is objectively better for one that is easier to use.

What Are the Components That Make up an Usability Test?

With a usability test, there are two groups. You have the end-users and the observers. In an ideal environment, the two groups do not know each other. If the observers were the employer’s of the end-users, for example, the data gathered might be skewed because of the employee’s fear of reprisal.

When a usability test is created, a scenario is constructed where users are required to accomplish a set number of complicated tasks. If a website is being tested, then the user would try to accomplish things that a new visitor to the website would need to accomplish, like making a purchase, inviting a friend, etc.

Once this is done, they can create focus groups to discuss the experience. Ideally, the users in the test and the individuals in the focus group should be part of the target market for the product or service being tested.

Throughout the testing process, observers may take notes. They might also, with the user’s permission, record the session with audio or video that they can then review later.

The world of design has changed drastically in recent decades. Gone are the days when manufacturers could tell users that this is the product, so learn how to use it. Now, users tell manufacturers what they want, and manufacturers compete to create products that meet their customers’ demands.