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A Complete Guide to Usability Testing

A Complete Guide to Usability Testing

The aesthetics and design of a software product are two very important aspects. How well a program looks often translates to how well it works.

There are many applications today that, once launched, fail due to being unstable, not user-friendly, and generally difficult to use overall. Usability testing identifies these issues early on in the software development cycle and can help a product from being a failure.

So what is usability testing?

In essence, usability testing is a method to measure how user-friendly and easy a software application is to use. A team of expert testers uses the program in a way that helps reveal any problems in terms of usability.

How to Perform Usability Testing

Usability testing consists of five phases: planning, recruiting, usability testing, data analysis, and reporting.

  1. Planning: The first phase of running a usability test is to determine its goals. This starts with identifying vital functionalities and objectives in the system as well as assigning tasks to testers.
  2. Recruiting: The recruiting phase is where you bring in a specific number of testers according to the usability test plan. It can take a while to find the right testers who match a certain demographic and professional profile.
  3. Usability testing: Once the recruitment phase is complete, the usability tests that have been determined during the planning phase can begin.
  4. Data analysis: The data obtained from the usability testing phase is meticulously analyzed, and the development team is provided actionable insights to improve overall product usability.
  5. Reporting: All of the findings in the usability test are shared with all stakeholders involved which typically includes the developer, designer, client, and CEO.

Usability Testing Methods

Several usability testing methods exist to help identify software application problems and concerns. The two most commonly used techniques are laboratory usability testing and remote usability testing.

  • Laboratory usability testing: A lab usability test is where participants attempt to accomplish a specific set of tasks on a mobile device or desktop while being supervised by a trained moderator. The supervisor asks questions, responds to feedback, and observes user interactions in real-time.
  • Remote usability testing: In remote usability testing, the participants and researcher are not in the same location. Participants accomplish all tasks in their standard environment with the devices they normally use. These remote usability testing sessions can either be moderated or unmoderated and can be done through the phone or a usability testing platform.

Types of Usability Tests

The following are the differences between the common types of usability testing methodologies.

  • Qualitative vs. Quantitative Usability Tests

    A usability test can either be qualitative or quantitative.

    In qualitative usability testing, researchers prioritize gathering insights, anecdotes, and findings on how people utilize the software product. This type of usability testing practice is suited best for identifying problems related to user experience.

    In quantitative usability testing, the focus is on collecting statistics that relate to the user experience. The two most common metrics collected in quantitative usability tests are the time spent on completing tasks and task success rate. This kind of usability test is best used for obtaining benchmarks.

  • Remote vs. In-Person Testing

    Although there are different methods of accomplishing usability tests, all of them fall into either remote or in-person testing.

    In remote testing, the tasks assigned to participants are completed without the presence of a usability moderator. This type of testing is ideal when you have difficulty in finding the right testers, want to obtain results quickly, or have a relatively small budget.

    In-person testing happens when the users are physically present and a moderator is available nearby to observe and record user interactions. In comparison to remote testing, in-person tests provide researchers with additional data points since they can observe and analyze facial expressions and body language.

  • Usability Testing vs User Testing

    Nowadays, we can easily find terms being used in product discussions such as usability testing and user testing. These two types of tests are not interchangeable and should not be confused with one or the other.

    In user testing, the goal is to test the utility of the application. It involves learning and testing the product. It is done to identify behavior patterns along with responses and thereby, determine how they plan to use the product.

    On the other hand, usability testing is done when the product has been made and is ready for review. This type of testing is often performed during the middle portion of the development phase in most projects.

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What Is Website Usability Testing?

Website usability testing is an approach wherein user behavior is observed to test the functionality and design of a website. This kind of testing lets you learn whether website visitors understand how to navigate the website, are able to complete tasks across various pages, and if they encounter any problems in their customer journey.

Testing the usability of a website can be done in different ways. These are:

  • In-person
  • Unmoderated remote
  • Moderated remote
  • Guerrilla
  • Phone interview
  • Card sorting
  • Recording session testing

Advantages of Usability Testing

Providing better customer experiences and increased conversions are the most common benefits of running usability tests. Another benefit of usability testing is that it ensures that a software program offers an intuitive and engaging interface.

Creating and providing good experiences for users is important for converting them. If you want people to be led through a specific journey, then you need to make that as easy for them as possible.

Saves Time For Company and End-User

Since usability testing aims to identify software bugs, it helps save time for both the providers and end-users since these issues can be fixed before a software program is introduced to the market.

Catching usability problems early on is less time-consuming and allows you to solve the issue as quickly as possible.


Disadvantages of Usability Testing

Despite its benefits, usability testing also has its own disadvantages.

  • Usability Testing Does Not Completely Reflect a Real Life Scenario

    The main disadvantage of usability testing is it does not fully represent real-life scenarios since it is primarily qualitative. This type of testing does not provide large samples of feedback compared to a questionnaire format. 

  • It Might Not Be Cost-Effective All the Time

    Another major concern in usability testing is that it can sometimes cost a lot to get meaningful insights. A lot of time and resources are necessary for setting up a usability test lab.

    Meanwhile, recruiting and managing usability testers can also prove to be costly.


Usability Testing Best Practices

There are many best practices to apply for usability testing to be effective. Here are some to consider:

  • Get consent: You should obtain consent from your test participants at the start and end of the usability testing. Asking for consent twice is important since participants only have little knowledge of what they are agreeing to at the beginning of the test.
  • Be inclusive: Be intentional regarding the members you want to take part in your usability test. Make sure you include people who can provide different perspectives on the product.
  • Run a pilot test: Make sure to run a pilot test with people in your organization to identify aspects that are obvious yet missing from the product.
  • Establish evaluation criteria: Set out evaluation criteria, so you know whether your product testing is successful or not.
  • Be mindful of the length of the test: Ensure that your usability test should only be long enough to provide accurate results.

Usability Testing Tools

There are many platforms one can use when performing usability tests. Here are some of the top usability testing tools to consider:

  • Optimizely: This A/B testing platform is very user-friendly as it allows you to keep track of your visits and conversions. It offers features such as mobile website testing, cross-browsing testing, and visitor segmentation.
  • Five Second Test: This budget usability testing platform is made to gather the first impression of a website from visitors.
  • Qualaroo: This usability testing program prompts website visitors to answer questions and surveys in real-time to help webmasters create the best usability for their sites.
  • Usabilla: This is one of the most comprehensive user experience testing platforms today. Depending on the plan, users can leverage feedback widgets, click heat maps, exit surveys, targeted feedback forms, and more.


There are many different usability testing methods today, and it can be difficult to choose the right one for your software application.

The good news is that there are quality assurance experts who can help you obtain the full benefits of usability testing without the associated hassle and cost of setting up.

At QASource, we can put your software program through a comprehensive and objective evaluation to ensure its usability against your industry’s standards of performance, user aptitude, and relevance.

When you outsource your usability testing needs to us, you can maximize your chances of creating the best user experience for your product.

If you want to know more, contact QASource today!


This publication is for informational purposes only and nothing contained in it should be considered legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out of this information and encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.