Usability testing or user research is part of a subfield of UX research and under an evaluative research set, when you want to evaluate a certain solution that has been designed. Usability tests are behavioral tests of a certain target audience, in the product and are based on the analysis of their behavior, in defined scenarios. These tests examine the interaction of users with the product/prototype/wireframe under development. The tests are carried out during several stages in the development of the product, and also when it exists and you want to evaluate its usability. Before we dive into detail on the subject, it is essential to know – what is usability?
Usability is the degree to which a product can be used by defined users, to achieve defined goals, with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a defined context of use (ISO_IEC_25022_2016).
The three main usability indicators are:
There are several ways to divide the usability tests into different types:
Low fidelity vs high fidelity – Low fidelity tests are tests on a wireframe of the product . it could be either a prototype of the product on some pages, or on wireframe that shows an abstract concept rather than a detailed product. High fidelity, on the other hand, is usability testing on a demo of a detailed designed product, or pages designed closer to the real product.
Moderated vs. Unmediated – Usable meetings can be done in a mediated way by a computer and remotely, for example via Zoom, or in an unmediated way in a face-to-face manner, when the subject experiences the product next to the researcher.
Nano/Guerrilla tests vs. Micro tests – Nano tests are usability tests of lower quality and therefore less can be concluded from them. Their goal is to get a specific answer about something very specific and not as part of an overall study. Quick confirmation of the process. Most of the test users will be in the product development environment, where 1-2 test subjects are sufficient. During this, a short task is given to the user and he is observed without disturbing. The feedback is short and to the point and remains in an internal forum. On the other hand, Micro-testing is performed on a defined target audience of the product, it has focused tasks and an overarching goal and is done as part of a more comprehensive research set. For this test, 5-7 users are enough for each type of user/persona, and it should work according to research rules.
In the first step, choose a few research questions or one central question that arises from preliminary research in the product, or from your managers. In the second step, hypotheses derived from the research questions are chosen. In the third stage, tasks/assignments are written that the user will perform in the product and will confirm our hypotheses. After writing the tasks, we determine the research indicators (effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction) and then these sub-indices (their operationalization – for example effectiveness = percentage of task completion).
While building the tests, we will usually try to start recruiting test subjects (the hardest part). You can recruit acquaintances, you can recruit test subjects from companies, or search on social networks. The most important thing to remember when recruiting the subjects is that they will be from the product’s target audience. How will you know that? In B2B oriented products and companies (products for businesses), the target audience will be people in a certain position, or who need a certain ability to work. In B2C oriented products and companies (products for consumers), the target audience will often be defined by demographic characteristics or certain content worlds.
In order to recruit the subjects and find the most suitable ones for the target audience, you can build a screener (filter) – a questionnaire on the specific characteristics and needs of the target audience and thus find the most suitable ones.
After we have found the suitable test subjects, we will invite them to usability tests (usually it is customary to reward them in some way so that they really want to free up their time and come).
So, as I mentioned there are 3 main usability indicators: effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction. Each index has sub-indices that actually constitute the operationalization of their measurement. For example, to understand how effective the product is, the percentage of success in the task is often measured, but it is also possible to measure the percentage of mistakes, the percentage of users who made a mistake, and more… To measure effectiveness, a sub-index – task time is often used, in which the time from the beginning of the task the user performed to the end is measured. For satisfaction, validated satisfaction questionnaires are often used, or questionnaires according to the sub-measures of satisfaction, which are trust, enjoyment and usefulness.
In addition to the usability indicators, it is advisable to pay attention to usage problems during the execution of the tasks and document them of course. By revealing these problems, we can often understand the “why” behind the behaviors we see in the product or in its analytics.
There are many products that allow the transfer of usability tests through them such as Usertesting.com, Optimal Smart and more… With these products we can document the tests, arrange the information in a convenient and accessible way and even analyze it into conclusions and insights.
You can also perform usability tests in Zoom, record the test and then measure the percentage of success in the task, the time of the task and satisfaction indicators.
These are all ways of passing computer-mediated tests. It is also possible to carry out unmediated frontal tests for the user of the product, but it is mandatory to take a picture of this both on the computer screen and the user’s behavior on it.
With the help of the test findings, it is possible to create a comparison between our product and other products, or between an old version of it and a new version. We will also be able to understand the problems of the use in the product that create barriers for users and thus come up with and try established solutions for this problems.
In conclusion, usability tests are designed to Improve our product by looking at how people use it and what they think about using it. The ability to find the problems in the product and evaluate its performance is what provides us with the possibility to let the user achieve his goals through the product and thus also for the success of the business.