All About Usability Testing: Part One

February 4, 2021
Amy Patt
Amy Patt

As companies roll out new software, update their websites, and develop innovative mobile applications, they need to be confident that these changes won’t negatively impact their business. User experience and customer loyalty go hand-in-hand, and there is a way to ensure both aren’t affected by updates and new feature roll-outs—it’s called usability testing.

The function of usability testing is to repeatedly test software, websites, or applications to gauge if users feel comfortable and competent using them. When rolling out prototypes for an added feature, updating an interface, or making small changes to text, usability testing helps ensure your product works as intended.

What is Usability Testing?

The majority of software testing focuses on functionality and repairing major bugs, but usability testing puts the user first by explicitly focusing on user experience. Usability testing asks and answers the question: will this application be easy to use? If not, it’s likely your users will quickly move to a competing software or application that’s more user-friendly.

In order to get meaningful results from these tests, real users are necessary. Testers would complete tasks from start and finish to test how usable or intuitive an app or site is to navigate under “real world” conditions. This testing process collects feedback from objective outsiders about their experiences.

Types of Usability Testing

Usability testing can address different research goals, regardless of the interface or testing mode. In essence, usability testing has several forms:

  • Comparative – Users compare and contrast one app or site to another to determine which offers the better experience. This gives context for decision-making about whether or not the findings from these tests merit changes in design or development.

  • Explorative – Users test various realistic scenarios to see what needs are not being effectively met. This type is primarily to uncover issues so they can be fixed before product release.

  • Evaluative – This assesses a definitive new feature or update to identify and troubleshoot potential issues before a launch. This kind of testing draws on the insights of end users with more exposure to a product and helps developers to understand the functionality of the product better. This also serves to identify problems that wouldn’t impact first-time users but could impact customer loyalty when releasing new features.

  • Benchmarking – This type of testing measures and records the site or app’s progress over time. Software changes all the time, and, with new features added and new iterations going live, benchmarking helps to compare recent data with historical data to measure the impact of said changes. This helps to inform future design choices.

Why Do Usability Testing?

Most internet users have the expectation they’ll be able to navigate a website or app quickly and easily. If any aspect of the site or app is problematic—slow load times, error codes, etc.—this increases the chance that the user will leave. Even the most aesthetically pleasing site or the smartest app will have a high bounce rate if it doesn’t load quickly or fulfill its promises.

Usability testing imitates real-life use of the software or site. As such, it offers many advantages, including:

  • Direct user feedback to help guide product enhancements
  • Ability to test many development areas to determine the most logical process for an update or launch
  • An opportunity to collect diverse and objective perspectives that help flag potential problems that could harm development or launch.
  • A way for businesses to better understand and learn from their audiences.

Even with all these advantages in mind, software and site developers might be hesitant to open up their product to users for testing. After all, it would mean that actual users would gain access to the product, often before the launch. It also means accepting the risk of bad publicity, since these users would have an intimate, unobstructed view into all that your product has to offer.

However, waiting to perform usability testing until later in the development cycle could mean serious issues go unidentified for longer. This leaves developers, managers, and marketers at a loss when problems emerge.

Usability Testing with Crowdtesters

Using professional crowdtesters for usability testing helps to minimize these risks. By choosing crowdtesters who resemble your intended audience, you can lean on their expertise, honesty, and discretion. They have a background in quality assurance to test large or small bits of software, and they’ll test as often as needed pre-release. And, if you work with a company like test IO, you can rest assured that no sensitive information will be released, thanks to their signed non-disclosure agreements.

Turning to crowdtesting for usability testing enables more complicated, exact testing processes, too. Crowdtesters are qualified for the more specific needs of your projects, and their input can improve user experience and flow. This allows you to optimize your application, website, or software—without having to worry about negative pressure or exposure.

To learn more about usability testing with professional crowdtesters, reach out for a demo.

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