Why is it Important to Do Usability Testing?
Usability testing is a user experience research method that determines how well a user can perform a set of tasks on a website, app, or other digital product. Combined with other user experience research methods, and as part of an overall user-centered design and development process, usability testing informs positive customer experiences that:
Increase sales and conversions
Decrease wasted resources
Think of the last time you had a terrible experience using a website or app. Did you ever use it again? Now think of a time when using a website or app was seamless. Did you buy from that company again? These experiences shape the relationship people have with digital products and the brands they represent. Jeopardizing these experiences affects the company’s bottom line. In all the usability tests I’ve conducted—no matter how thoughtful the designers or how visually appealing the product—none were free from usability problems.
Usability Testing Helps Your Business Measure and Achieve Its User Experience Goals
Your digital product should be built with user experience goals that correspond with your business goals. Treat your digital product as an employee, tasked with specific duties and given goals tied to certain metrics that are evaluated at regular intervals. In exchange for your investment, you expect that employee to perform those duties and meet those goals. Just like you would make expectations and goals clear to your new employee, you should have clear expectations and goals for your digital product. Identify what you can measure that shows you are making progress towards those goals and then decide how you’ll measure it. These can be macro conversions, such as signing up to use your SaaS product, or micro conversions, such as signing up for an email course that will move users further down the sales funnel.
Used early on in the design and development process—even with paper prototypes—usability testing helps you course-correct before investing additional resources going down the wrong path. If you already have a website or digital product, you can conduct usability testing to establish metrics prior to a redesign. Combined with monitoring analytics, which will tell you what’s happening, usability testing is critical in answering why certain key performance indicators (KPIs) aren’t being met.
How to Conduct a Usability Study
Once you’ve established your user experience goals, corresponding metrics, and how you’ll measure them, you can devise task scenarios—what you want people to do on your website. Recruit representative users and ask them to perform those tasks. It’s often helpful to have an outside party conduct usability tests. Designers and developers tend to become married to the designs they’ve worked so hard to create. A third party researcher can provide unbiased insight.
In a moderated usability test, whether it’s remote or in-person, the researcher will typically ask the participant to think aloud while they are using the digital product. By observing whether or not they can complete the task successfully and what problems they encountered along the way, the researcher will compile the results and provide recommendations for user experience improvements.
Combine Analytics and Usability Testing to Optimize Your Digital Product
Some user experience improvements are quick fixes; others require going back to the drawing board or even conducting supplemental research to get to the root of the problem and a potential solution. By conducting usability testing early on in the process, you avoid wasting design and development resources.
Once your website or product launches, you’ll combine the power of analytics—what people are doing on your website—to gauge your success in the real world, as opposed to a testing environment. If you aren’t reaching your goals, you can combine the clues you gather from your analytics audit with the power of usability testing to continue to optimize your digital product. Remember, your digital product is a living thing and, like the analogy of the employee, you will continue to invest in it.
Want to learn more about conducting a usability study? Our user experience workshops teach your team how to conduct their own usability studies. Need actionable insights? Our cyclical process provides insights based on the people who matter most—your users. Have questions? Send us a note.