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Home Guide What is Usability Testing? (Methods & Tools)

What is Usability Testing? (Methods & Tools)

By Tom Collins, Community Contributor -

In general terms, usability testing points to operating a product (software or hardware) and services by testing them on the customer’s/end-users/consumers’ side. The primary aim of this testing is to check that the product becomes easy to use for the customers. 

Other objectives include identifying usability problems, bugs, and defects and collecting quantitative and qualitative data. 

Why is Usability Testing necessary? 

Usability testing in software testing is needed to ensure a system is easily usable. Everything should be simple and comfortable. Also, it is necessary to provide a ‘help menu’ or ‘user manual’ with the software for solving any troubleshooting with usability. This is called ‘context sensitive help’. Thus usability testing is also called User Experience (UX) testing. 

It’s an essential phase of the Software Testing Life Cycle (STLC) and a type of ‘non-functional testing’.

Usability Testing Methods

There are different methods for usability testing. But a few of them can be found as widely used methods. So, we will now concentrate on them. They are –

1. Guerilla Testing

This is the best method to perform usability testing during the early phases of product development. Testers visit public places and ask random users to try their product’s prototype for this type. Thus it’s also called Corridor or Hallway testing. Users need to spend 5-10 minutes and give feedback on the product. You don’t need to hire any participants for this testing. Thus it becomes a low-cost test process.

2. Usability Lab

For this type, usability testing is performed within a lab environment. Here the moderators hire customers to perform the testing and ask for feedback after the testing will be over. So, it is much more cost-effective than Guerilla testing. There are 8-10 participants required for this testing, and the test runs on predefined test cases.

3. Screen or Video Recording

This testing states the user’s mind and actions taken during usability testing. Thus it needs to record screens and videos. The screen recordings become helpful in explaining any issues faced by the user during the testing. Usually, 10 users require 15 minutes to complete the test.

Process of Usability Testing

  • Planning: It’s the first and most important step of usability testing. A proper test plan is required to specify the tasks of the testing. In this stage, scope, schedule,test  environment, tools, resources, defect management, test methods, test report format, etc., should be decided.
  • Recruitment: An efficient testing team should be hired after the planning is completed. You can hire end-users and test engineers depending on the project’s budget. The team must be involved in all test sessions and help improve the product’s usability.
  • Test execution: Then, the team will execute the test cases and ensure their correctness. Side by side, they will be responsible for recording usability issues.
  • Test Result: The result formed based on the test execution steps and the data of the result are crucial for the next step.
  • Data Analysis: The next step is data analysis. The data from usability testing helps improve the product’s overall usability.
  • Reporting: This is the final step. It includes all the outcomes, related documents, databases, screenshots, etc. Also, modifications will be shared with the developers and designers in this step.

Parameters of Usability Testing

The common parameters of usability testing are-

  • Easily understandable: The users can easily recognise all the features and operations of a software/application.
  • Easily accessible: The application must be accessible to everyone. This is a symbol of a user-friendly application.
  • Faster access: The response time of the software must be quick. We have to ensure the softer will be loaded within 3-6 seconds; otherwise, it will cause irritating time wasting for the users.
  • Look and feel: The application’s layout should be clear, and the content should be simple and user-friendly.
  • Easy navigation: The navigation steps should be easy. It includes- a quality search feature, header, footer and effective internal linking.
  • Error handling: To ensure the correct error messages are shown. It empowers the usability and user experience of the application.

Usability Testing for Mobile Applications

Mobile usability testing checks how easily users can interact with a mobile application. It clarifies the quality of the UX provided by the app and also measures whether the UX meets the customers’ expectations. So, it’s necessary to create proper planning about the test progression and define the target audience for the app before starting the testing process.

Device fragmentation is a common issue with mobile applications. So, it’s considered that these applications have limited capabilities due to the small screen sizes. Thus mobile applications have a long journey to become compatible with large screen sizes like desktops and laptops. Thus it is compulsory to conduct mobile usability testing on real devices. There are two ways for this test-

But before starting the test, you must identify the right devices. These should be the users’ preferred devices they like most. Proper market research would be helpful to do this.

Website Usability Testing

Website usability testing indicates how easily a user can navigate and operate a website. The ease at with which the average user or visitor can navigate and operate a website, meet their goals, and find what they want is the true test of usability. 

Here are some key factors to check a website’s usability:

  • Learnability: To test the user can easily read the websites’ content. The visual aspect should be clear.
  • Efficiency: The users must complete their tasks smoothly.
  • Speed: 40% of users don’t wait more than three seconds for a web page to load. So, it’s a significant factor in testing the website’s speed. 
  • Satisfaction: To test the users’ satisfaction with the websites’ content, design, functionality, and offerings.
  • Errors: The errors must be resolved quickly, and they must be shown up.

This testing is an essential part of website development, and it not only ensures the quality of user experience but also helps to improve the UI quality. Furthermore, prototype validation is another benefit of web usability testing. From this, the developers and QAs can plan features and layouts for maximum usability and remove extra workloads.

Usability Testing Tools

There are several usability testing tools in the market which become helpful..

  • Recording features
  • Good visualization analysis and screen capturing
  • User testing questions and surveys
  • Integration with prototyping tools

Let’s have a look at the usability testing tools

App Live provides 3000+ real devices with different combinations of OS-browsers. It also supports local testing which allows testing from VPN connections. Let’s QA and devs test basic usability like- tap, scroll, zoom, swipe, etc.

BrowserStack Dashboard

BrowserStack SpeedLab tests website speed across several browsers and devices. Also, it helps to identify device-specific issues instantly.

BrowserStack SpeedLab

BrowserStack SpeedLab Report

BrowserStack Responsive tool helps test large screen sizes, device configuration, etc. So, it becomes a great usability testing tool for us.

BrowserStack Responsive toolLive Interactive Testing on Browserstack Wrapping it Up

Now you have come to know about the importance of usability testing and its functions in the software development process. You can do more on BrowserStack real device cloud. It offers web and app testing with 3000+real browsers and devices from anywhere. It provides high security without any maintenance cost. So start your journey today with BrowserStack!

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