Usability testing, or user testing, is one of the most critical steps your business can take before pushing a product to market. It helps you understand what makes your product appealing to users, gives you an idea of areas that need improvement, and lets you see how your users interact with it. It also helps give you a completely different perspective on your own product, which is sometimes incredibly beneficial if you’ve been working on it closely, and for a long time! You can discover something you never would have thought or noticed otherwise.
1. Define your goals
The absolute first step before you do anything else is to set clearly defined user testing goals. You should be able to answer the question of what you want to test, and what kind of answers you expect to receive. Your goal could revolve around:
- Task completion: Whether your user can complete the task or not, and if not, where along the funnel it is they get stuck.
- Time for task: How long it takes for your user to complete the task, how much time they need, and whether that time frame is too long or too little.
- Flow efficiency: How easy it is for your users to navigate through the product? Are there any parts of the user flow that is confusing or are there too many or too few steps?
- Error detection: Helping find any errors during use, and determining when they happened, if they were avoidable or not, and if the user was able to recover from it.
These are just some examples, as there are other goals you could set. No matter what your goal is, make sure your testing objectives are clearly defined before you start.
2. Decide how to test
There are a number of different testing methods such as test automation services, so it’s best to choose the one that will work for your goals. The most common testing methods to get the UX research data you want are focus groups, eye movement tracking, A/B testing, card-sorting, remote user testing, and conducting individual in-depth interviews. Each of the methods has its own benefits, and some are better to use earlier in the product development cycle than others, so be sure to consider that as well. You should also consider your budget, available testing facilities, and other resources before you choose a method.
3. Find your users
It’s critical to establish your selection criteria before recruiting users for testing. This will help you find users that are representative of your target users, so consider characteristics like age, gender, education level, location, profession, income, and technical proficiency, among any other specific characteristics you’re looking for that directly relate to your product. For more reliable results, you should pick people who are unfamiliar with your product or even your brand, if possible.
4. Create task scenarios
No matter which testing method you choose, you need to create task scenarios for your users. These will basically dictate whether the test is successful or not, so you want to make sure your task scenarios are properly asked. Your task scenarios should be purposefully vague, so you avoid giving your users the exact order of actions needed to complete it. If you give too many instructions, it could defeat the purpose of the usability test. An example of a task scenario could be to search for a specific product and purchase it from the online store.
A good task scenario would say, “explore the site and purchase a yellow sweater in your size with the provided credit card number,” whereas a poor task scenario would say, “type in ‘yellow sweater’ in the search bar, select size L, add it to your cart, and continue to checkout using the provided credit card number.” The good scenario will allow your users to figure out the path themselves, whereas the poor scenario doesn’t leave any room for them to actually test the usability of your product.