This week was all about usability testing and the importance of doing it throughout the design process.
What is a usability test?
Usability testing is when you get people to use your website or app to test the functioning of the interface. You will look at their behaviour and how they interact with the product. This enables you to find issues with usability so you can fix them, improving the user experience. You can test anything from paper prototypes to your digital product. I think it could also be beneficial to test some competitor interfaces to find things that work well or things you should avoid.
When I think about usability testing, I thought you had to test it on loads of users. However, I soon found that although this may give more accurate results, it’s not essential. We were told that if you test 5 users, 80% of issues are found. I think this is great as it shows that even testing a small number of people can be very beneficial.
Think aloud protocol:
This method is cheap and easy to do. It involves participants thinking out loud while navigating through an interface. You can give them specific tasks to do, and they give their thoughts as they do it.
I think this is a good method as it’s flexible. This means you can run this test at any time during the design process, even with paper prototypes. It’s also easy to do as you just need to sit next to the user and take notes as they speak. However, one disadvantage to this is that it can feel unnatural for the user, and they may not say some things.
General usability test:
The general things you are trying to find out include, efficiency, effectiveness, satisfaction, and how you can solve these problems. A lot of usability tests involve a screen and audio recording. This way you can look back at things you may have missed and it gives an accurate reading of issues the user faces.
Usability test process
We were advised to write a script to use on each usability test. This way, you don’t forget anything and it’s the same for every test, preventing bias. Below you can see the general steps for doing a usability test:
- Identify 3 or more tasks: I think it was important for me to find out that you don’t need to test everything. Instead, you can pick a few tasks for the user to complete and focus on making them more user-friendly.
- Create pre/post-test interview questions
- Explain the product and purpose of the test: I think this is an important step as it makes the user more at ease. You can also do this by telling them that you are testing the product, not them.
- Give them instructions (tasks to complete)
- Observe the user behaviours
- Make sure to record the start and end time: This is important as you can compare how long it took them to complete a task versus how long it takes you to complete it as someone who is more familiar with it.
- Ask post-interview questions
- Prepare to analyse results and create a report
This list will be beneficial to look back on when I do usability tests.
Overall, this class was very useful and taught me the importance of usability testing. I look forward to bringing it into my current and future projects as I find it interesting how people use interfaces differently.