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Home Guide How to Perform Usability Testing for Mobile Apps

How to Perform Usability Testing for Mobile Apps

By Neha Bharati, Community Contributor -

Today, mobile usage is more prominent than desktops as more and more people have easy access to smartphones and high-speed internet, leading to a boom in the mobile apps industry. The global mobile application market was valued at USD 154.05 billion in 2019 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.5% from 2020 to 2027.

Global Mobile Application Market - App Usability Testing
Image source

Amongst many factors considered to make successful and functional mobile apps, the most crucial criterion is the User Experience. The apps must have a simple and efficient layout, considering the minimal real estate for display. Imagine building an e-commerce application, like, for desktop and mobile. Users can view more products on the desktop version and easily navigate category pages using the navbar compared to the mobile.

There is much less space for the navbar on mobile versions, so delivering the same experience in a much smaller space is imperative. This is why different types of mobile testing come into the software testing cycle to facilitate the best user experience.

What is Usability Testing of Mobile Apps?

Mobile App Usability testing refers to evaluating a mobile app by testing it with actual users. It gives an idea of how easy it is to maneuver through the mobile application and learn how it can better support a brand’s key marketing objectives.

Typically, during a test, participants will try to complete typical pre-defined tasks while observers watch, listen, and take notes. The goal is to identify any usability problems, collect qualitative and quantitative data and determine the participant’s satisfaction with the product.

For example, a requirement for performing usability tests on a fitness mobile application will follow these steps:

  • Planning: Clearly define the goals of the usability test, i.e., what needs to be tested, what tasks to assign to users, usability testing methods, test report formats, etc.
  • Recruiting: Recruit users from the target audience who are supposed to use the application. The number and demographic of users depend on the usability test plan. In this case, it would typically be people in the 18-50 age group.
  • Usability testing: The defined tests from the usability testing plan are executed with the demo audience to check:
    – Ease of understanding
    – Ease of accessibility to exercises/courses/wellness plans
    – Ease of app navigation
    – Payment gateway process
  • Data analysis: Data from the usability tests are analyzed, and if any changes are required, it is communicated as required to improve the product’s overall experience.
  • Reporting: The final reports of the test are shared with all the stakeholders, such as developers, designers, and business heads.

How is Usability Testing Useful?

Knowing how the end-users react to it is the only way to know the product quality and market fit. The main reasons for mobile app usability testing are:

  • Detecting problems: By testing a mobile app with users, specific problems arise regarding the user experience or user interface. This feedback is essential in aligning the product to the user’s preferences.
  • Discovering Opportunities: Usability testing for mobile applications improves the design and tweaks the existing layout to suit the user’s needs.
    For example, Shopify conducted a usability test plan where they discovered freelancer hiring habits for their projects.
  • User Preferences Mapping: Knowing the user’s preferences and behaviors helps steer the original hypothesis of a product’s roadmap.
    For example, Udemy, after its app usability testing, realized that its initial theory of “users prefer using the mobile app while on the go” was false. Instead, they found that users frequented their app while stationary, like in cafeterias or on the couch. The key findings were the foundation for their upcoming product and feature updates.

How to Run an Effective Mobile Application Usability Test?

Here are some essential steps to have a practical usability test for mobile applications:

  • Decide on the objectives: Your usability test should have specific purposes, like determining what aspects users enjoy about your mobile app or how a new feature can make or break the user experience.
  • Design tasks: Once you know what to test for, it is time to design the tasks around those objectives. Provide specific tasks to the users so that they can test them quickly.
  • Lab Settings or Remote Testing: There are two ways to conduct a test: lab testing and remote testing. Lab testing is where you run the test yourself in a controlled environment. Remote testing is when there is a non-specific time when the test takes place, and users can do it from home and send the results back. With BrowserStack you can perform test automation remotely on multiple combinations of devices and browsers. Users can load their applications to the platform and perform testing visually by running their test suites in minutes. Try for Free.
  • Run the test: There are different moderation methods to run your test. You can ask the users to think aloud as they are testing it. You can also moderate retroactively. This type of moderation asks your user to watch a replay of themselves and explain their actions, or you ask users to elaborate on certain decisions.
    Analyze the data: The results are analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively once the test is done. Tools like UserTesting, Userlytics, etc., provide valuable metrics to make the analysis easier.
  • Improve, if required: Most often, the scope of improvements will be visible after the tests. So it is necessary to prioritize the improvements and make an informed decision.
  • Plan the next test: Mobile app usability testing should be done regularly and scheduled. These periodic tests can guide choices for responsive design and updates to improve functionality and ensure the app’s performance.


  • Recruitment difficulty: Finding the target users to test your application can be tricky and time-consuming.
  • Expensive: Since app usability testing is a non-functional test that can go on for extended periods, it requires a big budget.
  • Execution difficulties: Since app usability tests are conducted manually, the QAs must spend a lot of time testing and analyzing the data.

Mobile App Usability Test with BrowserStack App Live

Let’s look at a real example of usability testing using BrowserStack App Live by using the YouTube app. The steps to be followed are:

BrowserStack App Live for App Usability Testing

  • Download the YouTube app from the Google Playstore on the Samsung Galaxy S21

BrowserStack App Live for App Usability Testing

  • While testing the YouTube app on the Samsung Galaxy S21 Real Device Cloud, it works exactly as it would on a real device. It can effectively conduct usability tests for multiple devices, browsers, and operating systems from a single cloud platform.

BrowserStack App Live for App Usability TestingA glimpse of features testers can leverage with App Live:

  • Test on a wide range of real devices such as iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Pixel, Nexus, and more on multiple Android and iOS versions.
  • Leverage 15+ native device features like GPS, network simulation, and localization to replicate real user scenarios.
  • Interact with your mobile app on the remote device as you would with a device in hand. Tap, scroll, zoom, swipe, and more.
  • Debug your app, view crash reports and logs, inspect UI elements, and use stack trace to fix bugs proactively.
  • Test your native and hybrid apps out of the box on internal development and staging environments.

More and more testers are moving to cloud platforms to perform usability testing because of the ease of use and, most importantly, the flexibility of remote testing. Although usability testing requires manual intervention, modern platforms allow it to test remotely and freely. It also allows you to reach a large audience at a much lower cost.

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It ultimately depends on your testers to use these tools effectively to provide the ultimate user experience for their products. Remember the importance of real devices and operating systems, as they guarantee real-world success while testing in real user conditions.

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