Five Steps to Effective Usability Testing

UX researcher running usability testing

Usability testing is a wonderful way to quickly discover friction points in your user experience. With just five users, you can determine 85% of usability problems, making usability testing an easy and integral part of any design process. Here are the five steps to conducting an effective study.

1. Gather information

Before you start designing your research study, you’ll need to gather all the background information and requirements. Work with your stakeholders to determine:

  1. The goals of the project
  2. The budget 
  3. The timeline
  4. The metrics to be captured
  5. Different personas/user types to be included
  6. The users’ goals in this experience

Even though usability testing generally results in qualitative feedback, you can use quantitative metrics like success rate, time to complete the task, directness to path (e.g. the number of wrong clicks), and ease of completing the task (e.g. on a scale of 1–10) as ways to incorporate data into your testing.

2. Craft user tasks and scripts

Next, based on the goals of the testing, choose which tasks you want your participants to complete. Example tasks are “add something to the shopping cart” or “check out.” Once your tasks are decided, write out a script you will use to facilitate the testing. Make sure to frame the user tasks as goals and not lead the user to the answer by providing too specific language (e.g. shopping cart, check out”). 

For example, the above tasks in script form might sound like: “You are looking to buy several new sweaters for the new school year. Walk me through how you would go about selecting three new sweaters.” You can stop the user once they have added the items to their shopping cart and then ask, “Now you would like to purchase these items with your credit card. Walk me through how you would do that.” Your full script should include:

    1. An introduction. Here you explain to participants who you are and how the study will go. You will also want to ask your participants to think aloud throughout the study. Remind them that you are testing the experience, not them, and that there are no wrong answers.
    2. The tasks. Be sure to include enough background to help the users understand why they are on this site and what their goals are.
    3. A conclusion. Thank the participant for their time and ask if they have any additional feedback. Let them know what the next steps are for them if they are receiving an incentive.

3. Recruit participants

Using the background information you gathered about the user types or personas, create screener criteria for your participants. Example screener criteria include demographics such as age, gender, and income as well as specific questions such as “do you shop on social media?”

4. Facilitate usability testing

Time to facilitate the testing! Using your script to guide you, lead the user through the tasks. It is best to give the user your full attention so you can ask followup questions, so either save the note-taking for later or have someone else take notes during the session. Make sure to ask questions if the user is unclear about anything. Asking for further explanation on comments such as “this is confusing” or “there is too much whitespace here” can often lead to insights. Some follow up questions you can ask are:

  1. What did you expect to happen when you clicked x?
  2. Is this page in line with your expectations?
  3. Is there anything you feel is missing here or doesn’t make sense?
  4. Is there anything you really like about this process?
  5. Have you seen something similar to this on other websites (or apps)? How have you seen it differently/better/worse?

5. Analyze the results and present your findings

Next, it’s time to comb through your findings and make sense of the research. There are many different ways to put together a research report, depending on the audience. Check out our article on communicating research insights for tips on tailoring your research to your stakeholders. Your analysis should definitely include:

  1. A summary of the project background, goals, and metrics.
  2. Details on how your study was conducted (number and type of participants, how it was facilitated, how the metrics were captured, tasks included).
  3. Results of the study. This can be a visual of the metrics, video clips, quotes, etc.
  4. Recommendations: What changes would you recommend making based on the research?
  5. Next steps: To ensure the research is acted on promptly, provide the next steps so your stakeholders know how to move forward.

And that’s it! Usability testing can be accomplished in as little as one week and provides invaluable insights into the experience of your product. Tetra Insights can make the process even faster with tagging and exporting features that allow you to quickly aggregate and share your findings in highlight reels. Sign up for a free account and try it yourself today!

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