What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing
These days when there are countless apps in the app store for the people to choose from, a poor rating from the user, can spell the end for a product even before it's downloaded by a few hundred users. All the resources, expertise, and long hours of planning, dedicated towards building the product, can go to nought with a single negative review. Usability testing, thus assumes a significant importance and is implemented by the team of testers during software testing life cycle(STLC).

Therefore, to help you understand its relevance in STLC, provided below is a detailed discussion on usability testing.

What is Usability Testing for Website or App?

Usability Testing is a critical software testing technique, which is often used in user centred interaction design to validate the usability or ease of use of a software product. Performed from the perspective of the real users, usability testing determines how user friendly the interface of an app or a product is.

It helps to rectify various usability problems in a particular website or app, while ensuring its quality and functionality. From validating the ease of navigating a web site to verifying its flow and the content, usability testing ensures all crucial aspects of a product to offer optimum user experience.

Usability Testing

Features of Usability Testing:

Also known as User Testing or UX Testing, usability testing helps enhance the user experience of an application or website. With the assistance of this testing the team of software developers can identify various usability errors in the system and rectify them effortlessly. Other important features of this type of testing are:

  • Usability testing is a non-functional testing technique.
  • It is performed during the initial stage of software development life cycle (SDLC).
  • Conducted during system and acceptance testing levels.
  • Offers more visibility on the expectations of the end users.
  • Identifies various usability errors in the software product.
  • Gives direct input on how real users use the software system or applications.
  • Ensures that the software product meets its intended purpose.
  • Involves systematic observations of product’s usability under a controlled environment.
  • Tests the usefulness, accessibility, traceability, usability, and desirability of the end product.

Parameters Covered by Usability Testing:

Usability testing plays a significant role in validating the quality, accessibility, usability, and other important aspects of the software, which further assists the organizations to deliver superior services to their target audience.

However, the impact of usability testing is not only limited to these aspect, it also covers various other parameters, such as:

  1. Product Comprehensiveness and Effectiveness: Usability testing helps maintain the effectiveness as well as usefulness of the product. It allows the team to develop an application or website that is relevant to the user. Furthermore, it enables them to maintain the aesthetic value of the product, by establishing harmony in the content, color, images, etc.
  2. Efficiency: From reducing the time of screen and home page navigation to maintaining format uniformity, usability testing is performed by usability evaluators for various reasons. Moreover, it helps the team to conduct search within the software application or website itself.
  3. Accuracy: Usability testing checks that no incorrect or irrelevant data or information is present in the product. It also detects broken links in the product, which further help to establish accuracy of the end product.

Usability Testing Process:

From getting an insight into the software product to performing usability study with the assistance of user researcher, usability testing involves running tests on a software product and testing its performance from user’s point of view in real time. It follows a specific set of steps, which help the team get accurate and helpful feedbacks from the users.

Hence, the process of usability involves following steps:

  • Planning: The first stage of the process, here the team prepares a test plan and create some paper prototypes, which assist the testing team accomplish tasks for usability testing. Furthermore, the goal of testing, the format for reporting, and the number of testers required for testing is also decided.
  • Team Recruiting: This stage of usability testing involves recruiting end user representatives, who are willing to sit through test sessions and validate the usability and accuracy of the product. This is mainly based on the requirement of testing as well as the number of individuals mentioned in the test plan. Once recruiting of testers is accomplished, the team is assigned specific tasks and responsibilities.
  • Test Execution: It is during this stage of the process that usability testing is finally executed. Testers, in this case the users, examine the product for any discrepancy and record them with accurate details.
  • Test Result Documentation: The results derived from the test execution is then documented for further analysis.
  • Data Analysis: The data or the feedback provided by the users testing the product, which was documented earlier, is then analyzed and actionable recommendations are provided to improve the usability of the product.
  • Reporting: Finally, the results and the recommended changes are reported/shared with the development teams as well as other stakeholders of the project, along with relevant documents, spreadsheets, audio and screen recording, etc.

Usability Testing Methods:

  1. Hallway Testing:

    It involves asking random people about the quality of any particular feature of the product under test. Main motive behind this is to identify the most basic of brick wall scenarios for bugs, the presence of which can make the most basic of features ineffective and sluggish to work with.

  2. Synchronous Remote Usability Testing:

    This approach was put forward after extensive research on the problems related to conducting usability testing across far away locations. It involves the use of remote web sharing tools like WebEx through video conferencing. However this approach lacks the utility of a real presence to make this collaborative testing procedure a success.

  3. Asynchronous remote Usability Testing:

    This most prevalent approach makes use of the information from user logs, feedback for user interface and testing is carried out in the user environment itself. This method also helps to easily segment the user feedback into different demographic and behavioural types.

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  5. Expert Review:

    This is a very general method involving the services of a team of experts having a wealth of experience in the field of conducting usability tests. The experts conduct an audit of all the parameters having a bearing on the usability of a software product. Some of the essential parameters include:

    • Status visibility of the system.
    • Aesthetic of a moderate system design.
    • Flexibility and efficiency of use.
    • User control and freedom.
  6. Automated Expert Review:

    It's just a program based review of all the usability parameters. But downside to it is the lack of insightful reviewing when performed by humans. Also, it is a slower process of testing.

  7. A/B Testing:

    A/B Testing involves creating a mirror image of the product without a crucial facet from the original and which can have a direct bearing on the user behaviour. This is followed by a comparative analysis. Some of the other elements which undergo this form of usability testing are text, colour or contrast of the interface.

  8. Laboratory Usability Testing: Conducted in the presence of the observers, this type of testing is executed by the team in a separate lab room. It is the responsibility of the observer to constantly monitor the behavior of the testers and to report the outcome of testing to the concerned team.
In most cases, usability testing unravels many bugs closely associated with the results of performance testing procedures. With the conclusion of usability testing, the final software product becomes easier to operate for the users and is readily endorsed by them.

Usability Testing Benefits:

From validating ease of use to providing superior user satisfaction, the advantages offered by usability testing are numerous, few of which are stated below:

  • Helps validate the usability of the software.
  • Ensures user satisfaction with the software product.
  • With the assistance of usability testing, you can uncover usability issues before the delivery of the product.
  • Validates the efficiency and effectiveness of the software product and web sites.
  • Aids in getting relevant and accurate user feedback.
  • Enhances the acceptability and reliability of the software product.
  • Helps discover potential bugs and defects in the software.

Disadvantages of Usability Testing:

To get a thorough understanding of usability testing, it is vital for us to get an insight into its disadvantages and drawbacks also. Therefore, mentioned here are the disadvantages of usability testing.

  • As it is performed by the end users, it is difficult to find volunteers willing to work as testers.
  • Recruiting resources can also be excessively costly.

Usability Testing Tips:

A process of testing can be further simplified by team if they adapt best practices or make use of the various tips offered by experienced and knowledgeable experts. Likewise, to improve the probability of detecting usability issues in the system, here are some important tips for usability testing:

  • Usability testing should be commenced during the early stages of software development and designing.
  • Appropriate and knowledgeable users should be recruited for the process of testing.
  • The focus of testers during usability testing should be on testing important and frequently used functionalities of the product.
  • The should be made aware of the target audience as well as their business requirements.


Performing usability testing is essential for organizations around the world. It is one of the most critical software testing techniques, which helps software testers as well as developers maintain the usability, accuracy, reliability, functionality, and other aspects of the software. Therefore, by implementing usability testing during the initial stage of software development, you can ensure the ease of use of your applications and offer remarkable user satisfaction.

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