What to Ask Yourself Before Usability Testing

{ 💻 } – Usability Testing Is Important, But Only If You Do It Right

This article was originally published on UX Designers Club.

Do you know how to conduct effective usability testing? A lot can go wrong when conducting a usability test. If you ask the right questions and follow some basic steps, you’ll have successful usability testing.

Usability testing is a handy tool for improving your company’s digital products. It’s not just about measuring how easy it is to use your products. It measures the quality of a digital product as a whole.

These tests help you identify how well your product is designed, gather customer feedback, and measure certain design elements’ success to ensure usability across different devices.

The goal is to make evolving digital products easier and more intuitive, which benefits your customers and makes them happier overall.

To conduct a successful usability test, you must understand the target audience and consider their needs. You need to propose solutions to your clients quickly and adapt to user needs.

To help you conduct successful usability tests, here are three useful questions you should ask yourself while working on your next usability test.

What Is Your Goal

Determining your goal will help you decide which steps to take during your usability test. Consider why you’re conducting this particular type of test and what the result should be. You don’t want to perform a usability test just for the sake of doing one.

“In many ways, usability is the most important aspect of a website that is not seen, affecting everything from SEO to site speed.”

— Goran Paun in Forbes

UX design is a process by which people engage with a product to understand how it can be improved. User testing is one of the main aspects of UX design, as it helps gather feedback from potential customers to make an informed business decision.

A user testing goal should always be ‘what will users do?’ This phrase covers the whole breadth of user experiences and helps you look at different ways users can interact with your products.

For example, let’s say you’re designing a website. Your goal might be “how will users navigate certain webpages?” or “will they find what they’re looking for?” However, having a broad goal is more difficult to execute because there are too many variables.

It’s much easier if you create a more narrow goal, like “how does the user navigate this homepage on mobile?”. Now, you’ll focus your design and come up with solutions to specific issues that users may have.

Another key aspect of user testing is the ‘pilot’ stage. This is where you’re able to try out design decisions before they’re fully implemented into your product.

For example, let’s say you have a website that needs to include a blog post layout. You’d create wireframes, then test on users with different layouts and elements. This way, you can determine what works best and what doesn’t as you continue designing.

The first step to conducting a user test is recruiting your test subjects. It’s important to keep in mind that they need to be the people who’ll actually be using your final product if the product is online already.

At least one of the testers should be a power user, someone who uses your product regularly.

This portion of the test can help you determine what problems may occur based on the frequency of use and if they have run into any other issues.

In short, it’s important to get people who are familiar with your product before testing it out on them.

Who Should Do the Testing

The UX professional is typically directly responsible for every aspect of UX. You own all aspects of designing, developing, deploying, and maintaining a product from idea inception to roll out. One of these aspects is usability testing.

“No product will be successful if it doesn’t provide its users with a good experience.”

— YEC in Forbes

If you’re a UX professional, should you be doing usability testing yourself Anyone who is in charge of the design process should perform testing when possible. It’s inefficient to allow a person outside the design team to be responsible for testing.

Most companies aren’t going to have dedicated usability professionals on staff. This doesn’t mean usability testing has to be an afterthought. The best solution would be to conduct a usability test by a UX designer who created the logic behind a product.

This will make direct contact between a creator and a user. This contact can lead to a connection between the designer’s ideas and the user’s product misunderstanding.

Therefore, understanding how to bridge this gap means making a product that people will use.

Ultimately, the UX professional need to test his or her design. This is a useful undertaking for the UX professional to take on. You can gain valuable insight into what your product will actually be like for users.

The UX designer can user testing knowledge back to the design team to make changes that were missed. This will create an end product that is much closer to having no usability issues at all. It can also shorten the time the team spends on quality assurance.

Another positive of you to test your design is that you’ll have insight into how other team members will test it. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and miscommunications with other members of the design team.

UX designer who understands how his or her designs are tested can assign tasks to team members more easily. You should give exact directions for test design and execution because of understanding how they would do it themselves.

It could also lead to less work being passed off when designers feel pressure from their deadlines.

If you want to be the right person for user tests, you need to:

  • have a fairly non-critical knowledge of the product
  • have no personal connection to the product
  • have an unbiased attitude towards the product
  • have an affinity or understanding of why users need the product
  • be comfortable being quiet while watching other people use your product

How Should You Ask Questions

Most people don’t realize it, but asking the right questions while performing usability testing can affect the results. To get the most valuable feedback possible, you need to ask your participants the right questions at the right time.

There are many ways of conducting usability testing and asking participants different questions.

“Think of the questions you ask as ways to direct what you would like to do with your product as they test it. Also, you want to gauge the relative value of the product you want to launch as well as identify favorite features.” — Yenn Lei in Forbes

Some people might prefer using a low-fidelity prototype, while others might choose high-fidelity prototypes. It all depends on what you’re trying to test and how much time you have to test the prototype. Before you start, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding the types of questions you ask.

When testing low-fidelity prototypes, “ask” is your friend. You should ask questions that require participants to answer and react to. To do this, you must add context to the question.

For example, a question like “How does this one look?” is much harder to answer than “How does this carousel look?”

When testing high-fidelity prototypes, use more demanding questions. To make sure you’re asking the right questions, think of what matters most to your business. For example:

  • what are the most important requirements for this design
  • what would be a better way for us to handle this problem

The questions you ask your participants will reveal unique insights about the design and how people will use it.

Ultimately, it’s up to you and your team to decide which insights are most important for your business.

One of the biggest things you’ll learn from usability testing is how people respond to different questions. If you ask the wrong questions, your results will be of much lower quality. Here are some examples of good and bad questions to test.

Good Question

What was the last time you use this feature?

This is a good question if you want to test your design but don’t want to give away too much information. For example, if you’re testing an email sign-up form, asking this question might reveal that people find it difficult to complete the sign-up by clicking all the links in order.

Not Good Question

How do you think this feature should work?

This isn’t a good question because it includes your opinion. Even if the person agrees with you, that doesn’t mean they’ll use it in the same way.

Ask open-ended questions that allow the user to tell a story about how they use your product and why they think things are done the way they’re.

Final Thoughts

Creating a usability test is widely popular among UX designers due to direct contact with users and instant feedback about your design concept. There are many types of usability testing. These three questions will help you conduct your usability testing with accurate results.

If you’re building an app or web product, you need to get feedback before development, so no worries after development is finished. Usability testing results are significant for business, so designers need to be aware of them.

Create your usability testing today and design products based on validation, but not an assumption.

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Olha Bahaieva Avatar

Olha Bahaieva / UI/UX Designer, Medium Author, Public Speaker @ Toptal

Olha Bahaieva is a senior UI/UX designer, Medium author and public speaker at Toptal.