The value of usability testing

What’s user experience and what is usability testing?

User experience is incredibly broad term. It’s essentially how we, as people, experience the world around us whether it’s a product, service or system.

That aside, let’s narrow our focus to the digital space. User experience is the overall experience of a person using a website or computer application, especially in terms of how easy or pleasing it is to use.

To measure ease of use and how people feel about a website or application, there are tools to help provide that information. One tool is usability testing. This means taking a group of users from a specific target audience and observing how well they can complete certain tasks using the website, and how they feel during these tasks.

Usually a moderator will sit with a user and read from a pre-defined script, asking the user to complete the tasks and asking them how they’re feeling along the way, while recording mouse clicks and facial expressions. All of this information will result in a series of recommendations on how to adjust to site to fit the user needs.

This sounds suspiciously like market research. What’s the difference between a usability test and market research testing? Aren’t they the same thing?

Suspicious as it may seem, market research is based on attitudes, usually around a specific brand and how it meets consumer needs.

A usability test is about behaviour: what the end user actually does.

Why is usability testing important to do? Surely a designer or developer knows the web better than someone off the street.

Usability tests are critical in understanding the needs of a target audience. Any website is built to serve a specific need for a specific audience. Watching and understanding how this audience uses and how the audience feels about the site is absolutely critical in creating a successful experience. A good experience will in turn mean that people continue to use and enjoy your site. Unfortunately, a good experience isn’t something you simply extract from developers or designers, as they aren’t the end user and often have biased opinions.

Why Digital Accessibility Matters for everyone. Button: Download infographic