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Usability Testing

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You design a product (say a refrigerator) and when it becomes completely ready, you need a potential customer to test it to check it working. To understand whether or not the machine is ready to come on the market, the machines are tested by potential customers. Likewise, the best example of usability testing is when the software also undergoes various testing process which is performed by potential users before launching into the market. It is a part of the software development lifecycle (SDLC).

Usability Testing

Without much ado, let’s focus on what is usability testing, why it should be performed, and the phases involved in it.

Here are some major pointers which are covered in this article:

  1. What is Usability Testing?
  2. Phases of Usability Testing
  3. Techniques/Methods of Usability Testing
  4. Need for Usability Testing
  5. Why Usability Testing?
  6. Pros and Cons of Usability Testing

What is Usability Testing?

Several tests are performed on a product before deploying it. You need to collect qualitative and quantitative data and satisfy customers’ needs with the product. A proper final report is made mentioning the changes required in the product (software). Usability Testing in software testing is a type of testing, that is done from an end user’s perspective to determine if the system is easily usable. Usability testing is generally the practice of testing how easy a design is to use on a group of representative users. A very common mistake in usability testing is conducting a study too late in the design process If you wait until right before your product is released, you won’t have the time or money to fix any issues – and you’ll have wasted a lot of effort developing your product the wrong way.

This testing has a cycle wherein when –

  1. the product is ready,
  2. customers are asked to test it,
  3. If any further changes,
  4. product (software) is returned to the development team with feedback to update the changes,
  5. again the software had to run usability testing,
  6. if there are no more changes required,
  7. the software is launched in the market.

This whole process from 1 to 5 is repeated unless the software is completely ready and there are no further changes required. This process helps you to meet customers’ needs and identify the problems faced by customers during the usage of the software. Usability Testing is also referred to as User Experience.

Need for Usability Testing:

Usability testing provides some benefits and the main benefit and purpose of usability testing are to identify usability problems with a design as early as possible, so they can be fixed before the design is implemented or mass-produced, usability testing is often conducted on prototypes rather than finished products, with different levels of fidelity depending on the development phase. 

Why Usability Testing?

When software is ready, it is important to make sure that the user experience with the product should be seamless. It should be easy to navigate and all the functions should be working properly, the competitor’s website will win the race. Therefore, usability testing is performed. The objective of usability testing is to understand customers’ needs and requirements and also how users interact with the product (software). With the test, all the features, functions, and purposes of the software are checked. 

The primary goals of usability testing are – discovering problems (hidden issues) and opportunities, comparing benchmarks, and comparison against other websites. The parameters tested during usability testing are efficiency, effectiveness, and satisfaction. It should be performed before any new design is made. This test should be iterated unless all the necessary changes have been made. Improving the site consistently by performing usability testing enhances its performance which in return makes it the best website. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of Usability Testing

Usability testing is preferred to evaluate a product or service by testing it with the proper users. In Usability testing, the development and design teams will use to identify problems before coding and the result will be earlier issues will be solved. During a Usability test, you can,

  • Learn if participants will able to complete the specific task completely.
  • identify how long it will take to complete the specific task.
  • Gives excellent features and functionalities to the product
  • Improves user satisfaction and fulfills requirements based on user’s feedback
  • The product becomes more efficient and effective

The biggest cons of usability testing are the cost and time. The more usability testing is performed, the more cost and time is being used. 

Factors Affecting Cost of Usability Testing:

The testing cost will depend on the following factors:

  • No. of participants for testing.
  • Number of Days which you need for testing.
  • which type of testing.
  • the size of the team used for testing.

Remember to budget for the usability testing, making usability testing into a product or any website is an iterative process and the elements that are needed are as follows:

  • Time: Time is an important factor with considering usability testing, it will use the specialist of usability and the team to evolve the site and also need to test the test scenarios. Be sure to budget in time for this test preparation as well as for running test cases, report writing, analyzing the data, and presenting the findings.
  • Rental cost: If you are not considering the equipment, you will need to ensure the budget cost for all other equipment, and also need to allot the location for the testing purpose. for example the rental room like a conference room which is used to perform all operations.
  • Recruiting Costs: Consider how and where you have recruited your participants. you will need to allow the staff to engage a recruiting team to schedule participants based on requirements.
  • Participants Compensationbased on: You will need to compensate the participants for their time and travel purposes that also important to finding the testing budget.

Phases of Usability Testing:

There are five phases in usability testing which are followed by the system when usability testing is performed. These are given below:

Phases of Usability Testing

  1. Prepare your product or design to test: The first phase of usability testing is choosing a product and then making it ready for usability testing. For usability testing, more functions and operations are required than this phase provided that type of requirement. Hence this is one of the most important phases in usability testing.
  2. Find your participants: The second phase of usability testing is finding an employee who is helping you with performing usability testing. Generally, the number of participants that you need is based on several case studies. Generally, five participants can find almost as many usability problems as you’d find using many more test participants.
  3. Write a test plan: This is the third phase of usability testing. The plan is one of the first steps in each round of usability testing is to develop a plan for the test. The main purpose of the plan is to document what you are going to do, how you are going to conduct the test, what metrics you are going to find, the number of participants you are going to test, and what scenarios you will use.
  4. Take on the role of the moderator: This is the fourth phase of usability testing and here the moderator plays a vital role that involves building a partnership with the participant. Most of the research findings are derived by observing the participant’s actions and gathering verbal feedback to be an effective moderator, you need to be able to make instant decisions while simultaneously overseeing various aspects of the research session.
  5. Present your findings/ final report: This phase generally involves combining your results into an overall score and presenting it meaningfully to your audience. An easy method to do this is to compare each data point to a target goal and represent this as one single metric based on the percentage of users who achieved this goal.

Techniques/Methods of Usability Testing:

There are various types of usability testing that when performed lead to efficient software. But few of them which are the most widely used have been discussed here. 

1. Guerilla Testing

It is a type of testing where testers wander to public places and ask random users about the prototype. Also, a thank gift is offered to the users as a gesture of token. It is the best way to perform usability testing during the early phases of the product development process. Users generally spare 5-10 minutes and give instant feedback on the product. Also, the cost is comparatively low as you don’t need to hire participants. It is also known as corridor or hallway testing. 

2. Usability Lab

Usability lab testing is conducted in a lab environment where moderators (who ask for feedback on the product) hire participants and ask them to take a survey on the product. This test is performed on a tablet/desktop. The participant count can be 8-10 which is a bit costlier than guerrilla testing as you need to hire participants, arrange a place, and conduct testing. 

3. Screen or Video Recording

Screen or video recording kind of testing is in which a screen is recorded as per the user’s action (navigation and usage of the product). This testing describes how the user’s mind runs while using a product. This kind of testing involves the participation of almost 10 users for 15 minutes. It helps in describing the issues users may face while interacting with the product. 

Generally, there are two studies in usability testing – 

  1. Moderated – the Moderator guides the participant for the changes required in the product  (software)
  2. Unmoderated –  There’s no moderator (no human guidance), participants gets a set of questions on which he/she has to work.

While performing usability testing, all kinds of biases (be it friendly bias, social bias, etc.) by the participants are avoided to have honest feedback on the product so as to improve its durability.


Is important to keep in mind that Usability testing is not only the milestone for checking the project schedule. the project team will have the goals for why they are testing and then the implementation of the results.

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Last Updated : 16 Nov, 2023
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