The Dos and Don’ts of Usability Testing

Usability testing is a vital part of User Experience (UX) Design. It involves validating a product or service with target users. The aim of usability testing is to determine whether a person with ‘common’ ability can use your product for its intended purpose without feeling lost or confused.

Testing a user’s interaction with a product is one of 5 essential UX Design principles that reveals valuable insights. A UX Designer will regularly facilitate usability tests on a prototype or wireframe to ensure a product’s design is user-friendly and human-centric.

Key Components of Usability

A user-centric product exhibits the following characteristics:

Products should be useful, solving a real problem and easily usable. The learnability of a product and service is also a key component of usability. Products will also be tested for its aesthetics and the emotional response it may elicit from a user.

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Usability Dos

  • Speak to the User: Use a language, tone, and style that the user would relate to and expect
  • Identify a Reasonable Journey: Note specific activities that are typical of your users’ interactions with your product (read more about customer journey maps)
  • Set Goals and Measurements for your Test: Each task should relate back to your product’s functionality and the data you’d like to collect. Eg. Does a square button make more sense to a user over a circular button?
  • Capture Everything: Collect as much information as possible; whether it’s an email address, payment detail, or contact information
  • Use Data to Make Decisions: Focus design decisions only on received information
  • Address the Root of the Problem, not the Symptoms: Some responses will be symptomatic of a bigger problem, try to identify the problem, not the cause Ie. poor email open rates may be symptomatic of misspelled email addresses not user disinterest  
  • Make it Visual: A picture paints a thousand words — make things easier for your users
  • Gravitate Towards Minimal Changes: The aim of usability testing is to see if your product works, not to redesign it! In a usability test: Ask open-ended questions and make the participant feel comfortable, provide hints or prompts based on answers received and be concise. 

× Usability Dont’s

  • Use Product-Specific Terminology: Don’t describe the product and refrain from using technical jargon
  • Lead the Participant by Describing the Task: Avoid direction or telling people what they need to do
  • Create Dependent Tasks: If something needs more information, provide subsequent tasks
  • Mislead the Participant: Don’t direct the participant away from the test. Avoid giving the participant clues with responsive body language, facial expressions, and words.
  • Avoid Making Recommendations that are based on opinions, vague or inactionable, creates a new set of problems for users or targets a single type of user. 

New to UX Design? Download the ultimate UX Design guide for your website here.

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