Usability Testing | How To Perform, Test Cases, Checklist, Methods

Usability Testing

In this Usability Testing guide, we will learn what is Usability testing and the following.

Let’s get started.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability Testing is a testing technique used to evaluate how easily the user can use the software.

In simple words, it checks the user-friendliness of the software. It is also called UX testing (user experience testing) because it observes the experience a user has while interacting with a software.

Usually, the customer performs these usability testing and the organization which creates these software collects feedback and metrics from these tests and makes changes in the software application.

Basic Parameters considered for usability testing:

Accessibility: Can the user access the functionalities of the software? Are they findable?

Learn more about Accessibility Testing here

Simple text: Can the user understand the text given in the software?

Helpful error messages: Does the error message help the user to give the right input next time?

Easy navigation: Can the user navigate to the desired page or module of the software?

Why is Usability Important?

Usability tests help us to know difficult areas where the user gets stuck or confused.

It allows us to learn things like the user’s behavior, needs, and expectations from the software.

The basic question that the organization has is “Have we built the right product?”, that is answered in this testing.

Developers at Apple made a few tweaks in Apple’s Mac UI after usability testing. As the outcome of it, the company got 90% fewer support calls.

Difference Between Usability Testing And User Testing

User Testing Vs Usability Testing

User Testing vs Usability Testing

Usability Testing

  • Usability Testing helps us check and measure the effectiveness based design.
  • How easy can the user solve their problem using the software application?
  • It measures the ease of use of the software.
  • It takes place after the software is completely built.
  • Example: In the Amazon app, we can see the ‘+‘ and ‘‘ buttons on the checkout page to add or remove the product from the cart.

User Testing

  • User Testing helps us to check the usefulness of the software.
  • Does the software application solve the user’s problem?
  • It measures the utility of the software.
  • It takes place before the building of the software.
  • Example. Adding a new feature like re-quoting the previous text as a reply in whats app

Usability Testing Process

The process of testing the usability of the software can be divided into 4 phases

  1. Test Planning Phase
  2. Test Execution Phase
  3. Data Analysis Phase
  4. Reporting Phase

Usability Testing Phases

#1. Test Planning Phase

In this phase of the usability testing process, the team
Identifies the scope, recruits users, defines goals, chooses the metrics to examine.

The initial activity is to create a test plan that would help to perform to do a good usability testing.

Difference between Test Plan and Test Strategy

Before thinking about starting a test session, the team needs to consider the following factors.

#1. Define the scope of work

We need to decide the features and functionalities that we want to test. It can be easily done by jotting down the critical functionality of the software product or the main functionality that we want the users to use in the product.

#2. Recruit testers

Recruiting testers is an important activity of this initial step. Testers are chosen based on their demographics (age, sex, location, etc.) and the probability of them using the application i.e target customer. Ideally, we should recruit both experts and beginners for this testing for better insights.

#3. Defining objectives

The team planned the testing around those objectives and they would provide a road map on how to conduct the session. Answers to the below questions can provide clarity to define the objective of the session.

  • What do we want to achieve through this test?
  • What kind of insights do we expect?
  • What do we want to show to our stakeholders?

#4. Establish metrics

This is the most important step because we have to measure the usability of the software application based on the feedback given by the tester.

Sample metrics

  • How much time does the user take to complete the task?
  • How easily can the user perform the given task?
  • The success rate of the given task
  • Did the user use the software exactly as intended?
  • Did the software match the expectation of the user?

#2. Testing Execution Phase

During this phase, usability tests are executed. 

When it’s time to conduct the usability testing session, the testers and the moderators should follow a set protocol.

The moderator might guide the tester towards testing a certain feature or they might observe what the user does when doing a certain task.

Two major data points that are considered:

  1. Quantitative information such as time taken to complete tasks, both success and failure rates, attempt to understand the functionality.
  2. Qualitative information such as the interface design, expectation, look and feel expectation, and difficulty

#3. Data Analysis Phase

The data collected from the session will be taken to analysis which will provide the team some insights.

Then they will organize and arrange these results in a certain way to identify patterns and behaviors of the user.

Using those results the team would recommend changes to improve the product

#4. Reporting Phase

In the Reporting phase, the stakeholders will receive a detailed report on the findings from the usability testing.

These reports contain user feedback, metrics, and recommendations.

A discussion will happen among the stakeholder to determine where they can improve the product and how they will implement those changes

How To Do Usability Testing

Basic protocols moderator should follow to conduct a usability test:

1. You should take notes structured or unstructured as long it’s helpful

2. Recording the session will be helpful to show specific feedback or insight to the stakeholders later

3. You should ask your users to think aloud, express their thoughts and feelings while navigating through the product

4. You should not provide any lead to the user while performing the task, instead, they should make their own decision based on intuition and behavior patterns.

5. Do not jump to any conclusions during the session, the user might take time to figure out the system. So wait till the session ends to get a conclusion.

6. The provided prototype should be as realistic as possible, don’t try to reduce distractions.

7. Observing the user’s screen might influence their behavior or even worst distract them. This won’t provide valuable insight for the testing.

8. The user should be in control of the task, never take their mouse or help them navigate to finish the task even if they ask you. Because this would come under failure rate, you helping them would result in tampering with the test.

9. Keeping a neutral tone throughout the test will be necessary. Agreeing or disagreeing too much might influence the opinion of the user. Try to be as neutral as possible with both your tone of voice and body language

10. Watch for verbal cues and body language. Sometimes users won’t say they have some confusion, but a skilled moderator can tell by their tone of voice, actions, and body language.

Usability Testing Test Cases

Some sample test cases for usability testing for a website :

  • Is the navigation within the software clear and simple?
  • Is the design clean and clutter-free?
  • Is there too much white space?
  • Does the logo link back to home?
  • Are there visual clues for links?
  • Do the look and feel of the application please the user’s eye?
  • Is the design consistent throughout the application?
  • Does the tooltip help the user?

Usability Testing Checklist

  • Usability testing should begin in the early stage of design and development
  • Study the competitor’s application before starting to develop, will help the company understand the user’s expectations.
  • The test recruits should be a mix of both experts and novice users.
  • Testing should be more towards important repeatedly used functionalities of the software.
  • A moderator should be there for each tester. They can observe the user’s behavior precisely.
  • Understand that the negative outcomes from tests are not the failure of the product but areas of improvement.

Usability Testing Methods

Lab Usability Testing

In this scenario, both the tester and moderator are present in the same physical space. This gives a lot of control and to the moderator and in-depth insights but they cost a lot and need a lot of time to plan such events, recruit volunteers, and resources to conduct such tests.

In lab usability testing, the research takes place inside a specially built usability testing lab. The users have to do certain tasks on the product while a trained moderator observes and asks questions. Sometimes, stakeholders may watch the testing to gain more insights.

Guerilla Usability Testing

In guerrilla testing, usability testers are randomly chosen from a public place, usually a coffee shop or mall.

They have to perform a quick test, often in exchange for a gift card or coffee, or any other incentives.

These tests are short and simple, it requires a low budget but the moderator must be very efficient in doing their task.

Usually, they have a small intro session to understand the user’s demography and ease them into the task.

Moderated Remote Usability Testing

Moderated remote usability tests are usually done through the internet by moderators.

Usually, the user requires a computer or phone to test the product with proper internet connectivity.

This type of testing is done when the product needs a wide range of testers to gain useful insights. This depends on the moderator’s skills and ability to dive deep through remote access.

Screen Share Sessions

In a screen sharing usability test, a moderator instructs testers to complete specific tasks on their system and collects feedback while the user’s electronic behavior is recorded remotely.

This type of testing interview is the cheapest way to perform usability tests for users in a wide geographical area.

As they are less expensive than in-person interviews, they help the organization to collect more metrics in a very short time.

Advantage of Usability Testing

  • Usability testing helps to save time on designing the software
  • Helps to save money in rebuilding/coding the software.
  • Helps to make useful changes based on solid data insights.
  • It ensures that the product will be a success

Disadvantages of Usability Testing

  • Data taken from the test can be complex to study.
  • Only committed participants and testers could provide proper insights.
  • Participant might leak the software’s feature to the public

Best Practice To Run A Usability Test

1. Make the best test plan for usability testing
2. Be specific on the metrics
3. Repeatedly test the main functionalities of the product
4. Recruit the perfect target audience.
5. Have stakeholders nearby when the test happens
6. Explain everything clearly to the participants before starting the session


Usability testing might cost the company a bit but in the long run, it would help the software to stand out from the other competitors. Because it is so user-centric, it plays a major role that affects how successful software is in the market.

Example. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO invested in usability design 100 times more than in marketing.

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