What is Usability Testing, and Why Do You Need it?

Encora | November 24, 2021

Generally considered to be a subset of the “user experience”, Usability Testing is a testing method for measuring how well and usable (user-friendly) a software application is. A small, targeted set of end-users will test the software application to discover any usability errors. Usability testing typically focuses on how easy it is to use the application, the flexibility of the application to handle controls, and the application's ability to fulfill its purpose. This level of testing is often performed on the current version of the product, or at the beginning of the software development life cycle (SDLC) with a representative set of users, which will allow the software application to be developed in accordance with what the users want from it. 

What is the Purpose of Usability Testing?

The overall purpose of usability testing is to create a successful software application. How an application looks aesthetically, and its overall design will determine its success, or not. Software applications that don’t answer the following questions well are likely to fail miserably.

  1. Where does the user click next?

  2. Which page needs to be navigated?

  3. What icon or jargon represents what?

Other important issues that usability testing will often uncover are whether the error messages are consistent or effectively used and if the session time is sufficient or not. Overall, usability testing determines if the product's functions, features, and general-purpose will align with what the people using the application need. 

How to Perform a Usability Test

Now that we know why a usability test is important, let's talk about how to perform one. There are five main phases to a usability test:

1. Planning

The first stage of a usability test is to determine what the goals are. What are the critical functionalities and objectives of the application? For testing to be effective, the tasks assigned to testers need to test these functionalities and objectives. This phase also includes deciding what usability testing method will be used, who and how many testers are needed, the degree of automation that is feasible, and the format for reporting test results. 

2. Recruiting

During this phase, testers that line up with the number and demographics determined in the planning phase are found or recruited to do the actual usability tests. It’s important to give yourself or your team plenty of time for this step since it is the most time-intensive of the steps.

3. Usability Testing

This phase contains the actual implementation of the usability tests determined in the planning phase.

4. Data Analysis

Now that you have the raw data from the tests, it’s time to analyze the data. Once the data has been analyzed, this is where meaningful action steps come into play. These action steps are orientated towards bringing the app into greater alignment with its core purpose and function. 

5. Reporting

Once the analysis and the creation of action steps are complete, it’s time to share this information with all pertinent stakeholders. These may include the designer, developer, client, and CEO. But these will be different for each situation. 


Types of Usability Testing 

1. Qualitative vs. Quantitative

Quantitative usability testing focuses more on numerical data, statistics, and percentages, while qualitative usability testing focuses more on the testers' personal experience with the app. When it comes to quantitative usability testing, it focuses more on the measurement of data, such as user performance, like how long it took users to complete a specific task. These data-driven metrics allow for validation of design decisions and to find usability issues. Data is recorded indirectly while testers complete their tasks. 

Qualitative usability testing wants to understand how testers experienced the application. Questions like “why did they do that action?” are asked in qualitative usability testing. This kind of information is used to help designers understand why users do what they do during testing and how they felt about it. With this style of testing, what’s important is the researcher’s impressions and the testers’ feedback. This kind of data is gathered by watching testers’ interactions and reactions to the software application. 

2. Remote vs. In-Person Testing

All usability testing falls into one of these categories. Remote testing is where tests are done by testers without a usability designer present. In-person testing happens when testers are physically present. In-person testing offers many advantages, including the opportunity to physically observe the testers' body language and other non-verbal cues. However, the advantage of remote testing is that it is far more cost-effective and time-efficient.


Cost of Usability Testing

The cost of usability testing varies greatly depending on the type of testing and the client’s needs. On the low end for a five-person remote study, costs run from $500-1700 and about 30-50 research hours. An in-person study can range from $12,000-18,000. Factors include whether the testers are being paid, if physical space is needed, and the work required to implement the testing. 

Find the Usability Testing Support You Need with Encora

Encora has been helping businesses just like yours find support in technology, data solutions, and software products that scale with real-time performance. If you’re ready for usability testing on a software application that your company has developed, turn to Encora for the support you need. They are experts at usability testing and can help your company decide what type of usability testing is appropriate and then implement the testing for you. When you choose Encora, you’re choosing the best in the business.

Reach out to Encora today!

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