A Few How’s and Why’s about Usability Testing

Creation of appealing user interfaces is the essential part of the product design. The responsibility of delivery of user-friendly interfaces lies on UX designers and QA departments. Daily they carry out researches to gain a better understanding of users’ needs. Leaning on the results of those researches, they generate UI ideas to meet business objectives of the customer. Those new ideas make products user-friendly and well designed.

Along with the implementation of new interface solutions, UX experts and QA engineers regularly check the usability of products to deliver reliable products to the market. Interface bugs are often the inevitable part of the design process, accurate usability testing is a must.

Usability testing helps product owners achieve one of the important goals –  the improvement of user interaction with the interface. Users shouldn’t waste time on learning products’ functionality. It should be intuitive.
The best way to ensure the high level of intuitiveness is to check usability before the build release.

Generally, usability is measured by various methods:

  1. Testing by Check List
  2. Multiple observable (focus groups)
  3. Eye tracking
  4. Cognitive Walkthroughs of experts
  5. Heuristic Evaluation, etc.

The industry has a lot of metrics and methods. You’ll have to specify and collect those that suit your product best. The metrics and standards are the fundamentals of your usability testing strategy.

How to Check and Measure Usability
Check list

Creation of a check list is the first step of usability testing. Remember, it should lean on the metrics and standards. Typically, the tests in the checklist are performed by real users – it’s good to have 2-5 of them – or QA engineers themselves. When the product is tested by QA engineers, they check the ease of use, evaluate design and technical complicacy.

If the product is tested by a user, they perform tasks that represent the most common user goals and/or the most important conversion goals. Generally, the user tasks are goal-oriented tasks and take several minutes.

The length of check lists may vary depending on the product complexity.

List of defects

Going through the checklist task is not the end of the testing process. Some usability engineers can stop here and tell you just the usability is “Good” or “Bad”, but it is better to move forward and create the list of detected bugs. The number of bugs and their severity provides additional information on the application quality. Bugs show what parts of the application are the worst and need immediate fixing. No user will like the product that has an overcomplicated interface and lack intuitiveness.

Ease of Evaluation
Usability evaluation leans on metrics gathered in the process of testing the application. To assess usability, we suggest using the following metrics. We created the list of these metrics leaning on the results of best practice analysis, our researches and expertise that we acquired across multiple projects.

  • Learnability describes how quickly a novice user can develop a basic proficiency with the product and generate results at some desired level. Users prefer products that allow them to be productive after only a short training period.
  • Memorability refers to how well an occasional user can use the product after having not used it for a certain time. If the product has poor memorability, it may be difficult for the occasional user to remember how to use it effectively. High memorability can eliminate the need for retaining in order to use the product properly.
  • Efficiency can be measured quantitatively as the number of orders an experienced customer service representative can process per hour. For example, one measure of efficiency for an order entry software application might be the number of orders that customer service representatives could process per hour after they have become adept at using the software. Users desire a high level of efficiency so that they can be more productive.
  • Error tolerability requires that the product helps prevent users from making errors and allows users to quickly recover from their errors. It is important that any errors that do occur are not catastrophic. For example, in a word processing application, users should not lose their documents when they make an error saving a data file. Likewise, users should not need to start over from the beginning of the process when an error does occur.
  • Likeability is a subjective measure of how much users enjoy using the product. If their experience is a good one, users will likely continue to use the product regularly to accomplish their tasks.

Each of these criteria allows assessing usability in both qualitative and quantitative terms. For example, learnability might be measured quantitatively as the time required for a novice user to correctly install a new software program. Efficiency can be measured quantitatively as the number of orders an experienced customer service representative can process per hour. Likeability can be measured qualitatively on a subjective scale that asks users to Defining Usability. To measure their product’s ease of use, product developers and/or usability researchers will need to tailor these five criteria of usability to the details of their particular application. For some criteria, they will also need to establish a predefined measurement to serve as the basis on which results can be evaluated.

What is the benefit?

This final evaluation combined with the results of the checklist tasks and the number of found bugs give a clear picture of the usability level of the product. All the results are included in the report that refers developers to the weak parts of the application. In other words, usability testing discovers the pitfalls of the product.

Though usability testing improves the application or any other product, most companies under-invest in usability, which is a great mistake. It would be a right thing to give usability testing more weight on the project since it brings more value than you expected. Here is why:

  • Usability testing has short- and long-term value. In the short term, usability testing can help companies minimize the cost and risk associated with releasing a potentially problematic product. In the long term, it helps companies increase revenue, sales, and brand loyalty as they deliver a credible and intuitive product to the market.
  • Usability testing helps cutting costs of unscheduled updates, maintenance, and product recalls caused by poor product design.
  • A good level of usability increases the user satisfaction level with a product. Due to that, the product acquires positive promotion that triggers product demand and brand loyalty.
  • Applying the metrics allows give a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the product.

 In the nutshell, usability has become a benchmark users apply to choose the best product. The better it looks and the easier it is, the more users like it. Users do not like wasting time on learning a product. Usability makes products familiar and easy, that is why companies should not neglect it.

More articles on the topic:

Principles of a Good User Interface Design

The Main Steps of The User Interface Design

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Intetics Inc. is an expert in creation and operation of effective distributed technology teams aimed at software product development, IT support, quality assurance and data processing. Based on a proprietary business model of Remote In-Sourcing®, advanced Quality Management Platform and measurable SLAs, Intetics enables IT rich, innovative organizations to capitalize on available global talent and Intetics’ in-depth engineering expertise. Our core know-how is rooted in design of software products within conditions of incomplete specifications.

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