Usability Testing

By Abigael Wangui
  Published 15 Jun 2014
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What is usability testing? Thisrefers to the evaluation of products or services by testing them with representative target users. During usability tests, participants normally carry out tasks aligned with what a typical user should be able to accomplish on the actual final product. There are always observers/researchers in the room with the participants who observe and take note as the tests take place. The goal is usually to identify usability problems that may be experienced and also the participant’s satisfaction with the product. Benefits of Usability Testing Usability tests helps both the design and development teams identify problems that users may experience before they do the final coding and release of the product. The earlierproblemsare identified and fixed, the less expensiveit becomes it becomes to fix the problemsin terms of both staff and time and sometimes even the impact to the project schedule. During the usability tests, you:
  1. Learn if participants are able to accomplish assigned tasks successfully
  2. If they accomplish the assigned tasks, how long it takes them and also what processes they go through
  3. Get to know if participants are satisfied or enjoy using the product or website
  4. Understand where changes need to be effected to improve user satisfaction and performance
  5. Also analyze user performance to see if it meets your usability objectives
To carry out usability tests a formal laboratory is not needed. A room with portable video cameras is okay. If no recording devices are available then having an observer who listens and takes notes is also okay. After the tests After you’re done carrying out the usability tests, analysis of the data collected is done and a report written up.   iHub UX Lab Usability Tests Procedure This is a simplified breakdown of how usability tests are carried out at the iHub UX Lab:
  • Plan for the test
Involves the observer/researcher familiarisingthemselveswith the product/ website(it wouldn't be a good idea testing something you don't understand), creating a usability script with different tasks for the participants (usually on Google Docs) to carry out, recruit participants and also get "compensation" ready for the participants.
  • Testing room set up
This involves making sure the cameras and recorders are set up, charged and have an SD card in them. We also have a device (mobile or laptop) ready for the participants to use during the tests.
  • Actual usability tests run
We welcome the participants to the testing room, explain what will be happening and ask for their consent to record the tests. Afterwards we start the tests. We have the participants carry out tasks aligned with what the product should be able to do, we also ask them to do modified think alouds(this is where participants verbalize their thoughts as they go through the tasks). As the tests are happening the observer/researcher take notes of the participants expressions, exclamations and processes they go through in completing the tasks given. When the test is over we thank the participant and also give them a compensation for their time and help given to us.
  • Analysis
This is analysis of the notes taken during the tests. Coding and cleaning of the data is done. A report is written by the lead researcher who was carrying out the usability tests. The report is proof read by at least one other researcher and UX lead to make sure things are in order and then its finally sent out to the client. Next time someone mentions usability tests hopefully you will know what they are talking about and probably even throw in your opinion in the conversation.
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