Usability testing is something a good number of entrepreneurs and designers ignore. But, did you know that companies lose billions of dollars every year due to poorly designed products?
What is usability testing?
Usability testing is the process of evaluating a product by having potential consumers use it before it is released into the market. Its primary focus should be ease-of-use of the product.
Usability testing involves five essential components:
1. Learnability: How quickly are the users accomplishing tasks on first use?
2. Efficiency: After learning the design, how fast are the users accomplishing tasks?
3. Memorability: After spending some time without using the product, how quick can users establish proficiency?
4. Errors: How many errors are users making, what is the magnitude of the errors, and how are users recovering from the errors?
5. Satisfaction: Is the product satisfying the needs of the users?
A typical usability test involves assigning users specific tasks and observing them. The observers are keen on the user’s facial expressions and emotions. They even encourage users to think out loud – speak what is on their mind as they use the product.
A more common approach is giving several users the product and having them report back any issues they experience. Whatever the usability test plan you employ, it should provide you with data that will help identify any usability issues.
Why is usability testing important?
Usability testing is essential for the following reasons:
1. Saves time and resources
The design and distribution of a product can be a significant investment. If the product does not pick, you could lose most of that investment. Icons8 magazine learned the hard way. A redesign of a product ended up in colossal failure. A feature that was intended to make the product modern, easier to use, and to drive sales resulted in the loss of about 47% of users.
2. Shortens development time
Early and frequent testing of a product shortens development time. User testing of a prototype helps developers learn what works early enough. That saves time that would have otherwise been spent working on the wrong thing.
Subsequent test during the development phase and the final testing of the product before launch will ensure the final product works perfectly.
What phase of the design process usability testing is recommended?
Usability testing is recommended in the following stages:
1. Before product redesign
Usability testing on your existing product provides ideas for the redesign. The primary function of such a test is to identify issues in user experience and solve them in the new product.
2. During product design
Tests during the formative stages provide quick insights into the design. It is important to conduct user tests in the initial development phase on prototypes. A test should also be done in the subsequent phases of development to get everything right the first time. During the formative stages, tests should focus on user comments and their attitude towards the product.
3. After product design
Usability tests on the final design can capture important metrics. If tests were done during the formative phases, the summative tests should mainly focus on how usable the product is. The tests measure the success rate of accomplishing specific tasks and the time spent performing the tasks.
Tips to run your user test
1. Use your existing audience. From market research, you have already identified your target audience. People who are most likely to use the product will provide the best results.
2. Use focus groups. Conducting the same tests on a large group of people is a waste of resources. It is wiser to conduct different tests on random sets of about half a dozen participants. Such tests are likely to find 99% of the issues.
3. Recruit the right users to run the test. When selecting a test plan consider what areas you want to concentrate on, determine potential issues on usability, and determine what tasks you want participants to test.
4. Focus on quality, not quantity. Most companies, especially startups, avoid user tests due to cost. But, NN Group conducted research which concluded that 5 participants are enough to identify 85% of usability problems.
The end game of launching an update or a new product is to make profits. Product testing can reduce the chances of failure by matching your product to the needs of the user. As such, it can save you from inconveniences and can protect your entity from major losses.
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