UX Best Practices: QA Is Not the Same as a Usability Study

QA is not a usability study

QA (quality assurance) and usability studies are often confused because they are both a process of evaluating digital products. But they are not the same. QA is a process of ensuring the team built the product they intended to build, free of defects. A usability study, although it often uncovers software bugs, helps to determine how well representative users can perform the tasks they set out to perform using the product.

QA determines if a digital product:

  • Is built according to its specifications.

  • Functions as intended.

  • Works across browsers and devices.

QA is typically performed by the team creating the software or website. It never involves the end user. In fact, in a user experience design (UXD) process, the user would have been involved in the design process long before QA was performed.

A usability study, on the other hand, is performed to uncover:

  • How well representative users can perform tasks using the digital product.

  • What UX roadblocks users experience using the product.

  • Users’ subjective views of the product, brand, and their experience using the product.

A usability study can be conducted by an internal or external team, but always involves representative users (the people who will ultimately use the product). By observing users perform a set of realistic tasks, your team can see where users had difficultly moving forward. For example, they didn’t understand a particular button would move them to the next step. Or they couldn’t find an answer to a question. Usability studies help you fix these issues prior to releasing the product.

Want to learn how to conduct a usability study? Our highly interactive in-house How to Conduct a Usability Study workshop how to set up, conduct, and glean insights from a usability study.