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In Test Management Last updated: August 16, 2023
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Do you want to provide users with a unique and engaging experience when using your apps, websites, and SaaS services? Continually improve product usability by utilizing these usability testing methods. 

What Is a Usability Testing Method?

When you methodically observe users testing your products or prototypes, you look for design and development flaws. Then, you send the feedback to the designers and developers to rectify the issues in the next edition of the app or website. That is known as usability testing. 

To streamline and standardize the process, UX design experts have developed different usability testing techniques for different products and business needs. These standardized processes are called usability testing methods. 

The first is remote, and the second is an in-person usability testing method.   

Also read: Understanding Different Types of Application Testing

Reasons to Use Usability Testing

  • It helps you to uncover user experience bottlenecks and problems that users might face while interacting with a product or system.
  • When you take your product, like an app or website, through iterative usability testing projects, you create a user experience that the target audience truly wants.
  • Through usability testing of a prototype, you save a lot in production costs. Not to mention, you do not tarnish the reputation of your brand by launching an unfinished product. 
  • If you tried everything to become the market-leading brand by overshadowing an established competitor but still lagging behind, focus on UX improvements. Offer a unique and more user-friendly experience than the competitor to attract more users. 

Key Components of a Usability Testing Method

Find below the must-have components of a usability testing technique:

  • There should be an elaborated, proven, and documented testing plan.
  • Usability testing participants who fit the audience pool for that product and can offer candid feedback.
  • There should be a set of real-world tasks performed by the testing participants using your product or service.
  • A moderator will guide the testers through their tasks, ask relevant questions, and record feedback.
  • There should be a standard process of recording user actions when interacting with the product. 
  • It should offer quantitative metrics like time taken, task completion rate, errors made, etc.

Now, explore below the popular and effective usability testing methods that most UX researchers follow: 

Moderated Vs. Unmoderated

Usability testing methods Moderated Vs. Unmoderated

These are popular usability testing models you can apply to your testing process. 

In the moderated testing method, you must assign a UX designer or researcher to supervise the user and non-user participants who will be evaluating a product or business idea.

For example, you would like to test how easy it is to use your content management system. You will create a set of tasks and start the interview session with one or many testers, mostly via video conferencing.

Your objective is to collect qualitative data during the session. Let the testers be themselves and complete the tasks. Do not help them with hints about the workflow of the task. Once the interview session is complete, you should have adequate qualitative data like verbal feedback, comments, emotional states, usability issues, comparative preference, etc. 

Now, to increase the amount of data collected and reduce the testing cost, you can also conduct the same testing via an unmoderated model. Here, you do not appoint a moderator to supervise the testers. Instead, you utilize automated usability testing tools like Maze, Lookback, Userbrain, etc.      

Explorative Vs. Comparative

In explorative vs. comparative usability testing models, your goal is to either allow participants to share suggestions on your product while they test it or compare two user interfaces of an app or website.

For instance, you need to improve the UX of the checkout process in your eCommerce mobile app and website. You have been noticing an increase in abandoned carts lately. So, you will recruit a mix of participants who often, occasionally, and rarely use eCommerce websites and apps.

You can ask the testers to use their own way of buying products from the site. Then, fill up a feedback form about the checkout experience. This testing would explore many reasons for cart abandonment. 

Now, you created two different checkout UI after performing the explorative usability testing. Now, again you go to the testers to find out which UI works better. This is comparative testing at its best.    

Remote Vs. In-Person

Suppose you are testing a mobile app’s user experience with a group of users. If your UX researcher and testers are working from different places, it is a remote UX testing model.

This model is highly affordable and paves the way for a repository of user testing inputs on common products. So, you can extract usability testing data instantly without going through the exact process.  

Remote think aloud usability testing method

This Remote Think-Aloud Testing template by Emerson on Mural is a perfect example and format that you can get started with. Or check out the remote usability testing template from Miro

Contrarily, when you perform the whole UX testing process in a place where the UX researcher and testers work hand in hand, that is known as the in-person usability testing method.   

Qualitative Vs. Quantitative

Qualitative usability testing helps to find the reason behind increasing or decreasing user experience. Here, you study the underlying motivations and perceptions behind users interacting with your product. It follows the Think-Aloud protocol to collect qualitative data on user opinions, preferences, and challenges.

The quantitative usability testing technique mainly helps you to understand if a redesigned UX is working well or not by collecting performance data from systems and testers. Also, if the user experience of an app is better than another app, you can perform qualitative UX testing to understand the reason.  

Mobile Vs. Website

YouTube video

When you run the UX testing process for a mobile app, game, or operating system, it is mobile usability testing. Contrarily, if you do the test for a website, eCommerce marketplace, or web app, it is website usability testing. 

An example could be testing a website landing page to redirect desktop users to the web app and mobile users to the mobile app for language learning app sign-up. You want to see how the landing page and a trial language learning session perform from the users’ perspective in both mobile and web browsers.

Also read: Best Mobile Testing Tools to Help You Build Better Apps   

Lab Usability Testing

Lab Usability testing is a qualitative research method where the usability of a product is tested in a controlled and monitored environment. 

For example, you want to collect detailed insights into the usability problems of your website or app. So, you create a specialized usability testing lab and recruit test subjects to complete certain tasks. Also, appoint a trained moderator to observe their activities and behavior in real-time. You can also probe and guide the users if necessary.

Five Second Tests

Five Second Tests

The objective of the five-second test is to measure users’ first impression of your product design or to understand how well your design can communicate the intended message to a visitor.

Suppose you want to assess the information users take away in their first look at a website or design. For this test, you need to prepare your product and instructions along with inviting the participants. Select the test duration from 5 to 20 seconds and ask them the follow-up questions.

Tree Testing

Also known as reverse card sorting, tree testing is a method to find out if the proposed site structure is easy to navigate for a user.

For example, you want to test if users can navigate on your website following the site architecture. So, you need to create a tree structure that will contain the simplified navigation hierarchy of your website. 

You can ask the participants to locate any particular page or information. Recording their action also helps you understand if the design needs any modification.

Also read: Know the Basics of Information Architecture in Designing

Eye Tracking

YouTube video

Eye tracking is a usability testing method that measures the focus or the motion of the eye of a user when they look at a web page. When you need to understand how users navigate a page and which visual elements they find to be most attractive, you can use this test. 

Ask the participants to find information from a website, and the eye tracking technology will find out their areas of focus and hesitation by recording their eye movements. It will also reveal the missed or overlooked areas.

Guerrilla Testing

Using this spontaneous testing method that takes place in public spaces, designers gather instant feedback on the usability of their products. 

For these, strangers are approached in public places like coffee shops, and an app design is shown to them to see how they interact with it. Thus, this test reveals the instant impressions of the users or if they are facing any pain points. It does not involve setting up any formal lab but lets you locate usability issues.

Card Sorting

Card sorting as usability testing method

Card sorting is a method to find out how users sort or categorize information or labels.

If you belong to a UX team with an aim to design an architecture that makes sense to the users, you can ask your participants to categorize topics for your website. Topics categorized in the same group by most people should be included under the same category in your final design.

Also, check out this card sorting template on Miro.  

Surveys and Polls

Surveys and polls help you to collect quantitative feedback from users. Test participants respond to structured questions to provide insights. The data indicates user preferences, experiences, and expectations from your product. 

For instance, a social media app might use a survey to gauge user satisfaction with the newly launched UI. Participants rate factors like ease of use on a scale of 1 to 10. 

Surveys and polls offer quick and scalable data collection and help identify trends and user sentiment. The method is also highly affordable. Sometimes, you can even run surveys for free. 

Preference Testing

Preference testing

Preference testing is similar to that of the comparative UX testing technique. Your test users shall interact with more than one variant of the product. Then, they can submit a feedback form of a set of questions designed by you or share their experience directly via video conferencing.

Take this example of testing the usability of a home page for your eCommerce website home page or mobile app home screen. Users choose one version from many options based on content visibility, navigational aids, and visual appeal. UX designers mostly rely on the preference testing method to identify which design elements users like the most.  

Cognitive Walkthrough

Cognitive Walkthrough is a usability testing method where you must simulate user interactions to identify potential usability issues. To simulate the test, you refer to users’ cognitive processes data from internal or external sources. In-house testers can perform the task in the simulator to see if real users can experience user-friendly navigation.  

For instance, testing a new mobile app’s registration process involves simulating the sign-up process. Here, you observe if the system guides users effectively or not. If there are AI algorithms in the system, then you should see if the system anticipates user actions or not.

First Click Testing

First click testing

First Click Testing is a UX testing technique that focuses on the initial interaction with your mobile app or website. UX testers click on what they think is the first action to complete a task.

For example, a moderator observes what a user does on a ticket booking website. If the tester clicks an irrelevant button instead of the Book Ticket button, there is a problem with the UX design. You must appropriately highlight the important buttons on your app or website.  

Data from First Click Testing help you to optimize user action workflow. It also enhances the first impression of the product. Finally, UX testing leads to improved usability.

Also read: Heatmap Tools That Will Tell You Where Your Users Are Clicking

Final Words

Your products, like apps and websites, will surely succeed in attracting enough users and subscribers if the user experience is exactly what the audience needs. For example, your SaaS service needs the user to log in with a Google account authentication, but the process does not work at all. Would you get any subscribers?

That’s right! You won’t. Therefore, plan or improve the usability of your product by applying any of the above usability testing methods that fit your business logic and product.

Next up, find here the best functional testing tools to validate the functionalities of mobile apps, web apps, and more.

  • Tamal Das
    Tamal is a freelance writer at Geekflare. After completing his MS in Science, he joined reputed IT consultancy companies to acquire hands-on knowledge of IT technologies and business management. Now, he’s a professional freelance content… read more
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