5 things about usability testing that you have to know

Inez Bartosińska

What if there was one simple method to find opportunities for improved design, uncover UX problems, and learn about your target users’ behavior and preferences? Would you test your digital product with it? Probably so. 

Usability testing is a UX research method that can make that happen. Thanks to this approach, you will be able to evaluate a product’s functionality and provide customers with easy and intuitive navigation. And all that can happen by testing no more than 5 users. In this article, we will show you what the usability testing method is, what its types are, and the most effective practices.

What is usability testing and why is it important?

Usability testing is a popular UX research method that can help you uncover customer flow pain points by interacting with real users. Usually, to run a usability test, you need to select several people from the target group and ask each of them to perform specific actions on the website or in the app. Then, facilitators carefully observe participants’ moves and listen to their feedback. Such a method, when properly carried out, allows for quick and easy detection of system errors or potential difficulties that could be disturbing the smooth customer flow.

Therefore, as you can already see, usability testing is crucial in designing intuitive products that users will love. 

Validating your app’s functionality with this method enables you to check its real-life responsiveness to users’ needs. Additionally, you can run this kind of test at any stage of product growth. Whether your app is yet to be launched or is already a fully-fledged product. Usability testing will bring you valuable information about how customers interact with your application and how they want it to function.

How to do it well? 5 usability testing tips:

Usability testing is an easy and pleasant method if you plan your course properly. To make that happen, here are a few tips on how to organize your work and get the most out of this UX research method. 

  1. Create a plan

A research plan is one of the tasks that must be completed before moving on to further UX research actions. It organizes and validates the fundamental assumptions as to the prepared examination process. Also, it will serve as the foundation for further investigation. Therefore, creating a roadmap will be helpful in taking UX actions in a proper way. In the case of usability testing, it will allow you to discover what kind of tests and with whom it is best to carry them out in order to receive the most valuable data. 

An ideal UX research plan should consist of information such as the purpose of the research, main research questions, research methods and scenarios, task/question list, and respondent types in the research group. 

Additionally, you should determine what kind of data you intend to obtain and how it will be analyzed because knowing your goals will get your attention on the right aspects from the start. However, remember that setting too many goals may have a negative impact on obtaining in-depth and reliable data.

  1. Mind the most important elements

There are quite a few different kinds of usability testing, though the core components in all usability tests are always the same. Remember to cover them all and you are good to go. 

Firstly, the facilitator. It’s a person who administers tasks to the participant. While end-users perform the tasks, the facilitator observes their behavior and collects feedback. Facilitators in usability testing can also ask follow-up questions to provoke more detailed information from the participant.

Simply put, the facilitator’s role is to guide each test user through the process by giving instructions, answering participants’ queries, and asking additional questions if needed. It’s not an easy job as the facilitator has to provide high-quality test results and valid data, without accidentally affecting the user’s behavior. Accomplishing this balance is difficult and demands practice.

The second component – test scenario. In usability testing, test scenarios include realistic activities that users might need to perform in real life. All the participants of the study complete the same instructions given by the facilitator to verify if the customer flow goes as intended and verify potential issues. 

These tasks can be specific or open-ended, depending on your goal and the method adopted. For example, if your goal is to sell a product, you might order the following tasks: visit a website, find a product A, add the product to the basket, buy the product. 

Be careful! How you formulate the tasks while running usability tests is crucial for achieving the intended goals. Even small mistakes can make users misunderstand the task and, as a result, fail to complete it or do it in a different way than the intended way.

And finally, the key element – participants. If you want a usability testing method to bring you real profits, you should choose the participant accordingly to the real-life target group of your product. That way, you will be able to see how actual end-users interact with your app, what are their needs, and their pain points. You will quickly discover if there are some areas that (even if theoretically designed well) hinder the customer flow of these particular customers. 

If your product is already on the market, you can ask the people who use it on a daily basis to participate in the research. If not, find participants who would potentially like to use it when the app is already launched.

During usability testing, participants are often asked to think out loud. Also, the facilitator may ask them to share their actions and thoughts while performing the tasks. The purpose of this approach is to understand participants’ natural behaviors, goals, thoughts, and motivations.

  1. Choose the right testing method for your solution

Usability testing is one of the UX research methods, however, there are also a few ways you can approach it! Depending on your goals, you should go with one or the other. In this section, we will look closer at different usability testing types. 

  • Qualitative vs. quantitative

Qualitative usability testing concentrates on gathering insights, conclusions, and stories about how customers use the product. This method is best for realizing difficulties in the user experience. Also, usually, it is more common than quantitative usability testing.

Quantitative usability testing, on the other hand, concentrates on gathering metrics that define the user experience. Success and time on task are the most popular collected metrics and this method is best for collecting benchmarks.

  • Remote vs. In-Person Testing

Remote usability tests are accomplished online with the help of the internet or by phone. In-person testing, as the term implies, demands the physical presence of a UX researcher/moderator for the test to be completed.

Comparing these two, in-person tests are more beneficial in that they deliver additional data points because facilitators can watch and interpret extra factors such as body language or facial expressions. Yet, in-person testing may be more expensive or time-consuming, so if low costs are your priority, remote usability tests might be a better option.

On the other hand, remote testing, as users perform it in a location of their choice, can provide them with a certain sense of comfort, so that their behavior is likely to be much more natural than if the tests were performed in a laboratory.

  • Moderated vs. unmoderated usability testing

When it comes to moderated testing, it is probably the most traditional method, but it is no less compelling. In that case, the testing session is carried out in person or remotely by an experienced researcher who introduces the test to participants, answers their queries, and asks follow-up questions.

Thus, it differs from the unmoderated approach, where the test is carried out without the direct supervision of a facilitator. That is, participants are most often just in a place of their choice, using their own device to browse the tested website.

Moderated testing typically produces in-depth results based on direct interaction between researchers and users participating in the study. Therefore, if you want to collect reliable data, which you will be able to analyze in the next stage and draw valuable conclusions thoroughly, moderated tests are the best choice.

  1. Never underestimate the power of a well-defined target group

Knowing who your users are (or are going to be) is critical to the overall success of your product on the market. It is one of the essential aspects when designing the application interface, the customer flow, or the entire UX in general. 

Inadequate definition of the target group, or even worse, failure to take this aspect into account, may result in the fact that even a well-designed product will not attract users’ attention and will not respond to their actual needs. Or it will quickly discourage them with too high a level of difficulty.

The aspect of a well-selected target group should also be taken into account when planning usability tests. There is no point in testing the application on a group of users who will never really want or need to use the product because it is, simply, not dedicated to them. Therefore, when selecting the participants for the research, you must remember to choose people who fit into your user target group. Only that way will you receive valuable data about the functionality of your product. 

  1. Remember that there is always a room for improvement

UX research done once is not enough, and one usability test may not be enough to find all the factors stopping your digital product from developing better.

Usability testing is a great method of verifying the liquidity and intuitiveness of customer flow. There is no doubt that even one such study with even one user from the target group will allow you to discover and address things to improve and, as a result, deliver a better user experience. However, it is not enough to develop the product and the entire business. Why?

Specific core values and principles govern correct UX / UI design laws. There are immutable, flagship heuristics to follow when designing an interface. For example, Jakob Nielsen’s 10 general principles for interaction design. Yet, several aspects are as variable as possible, and only regular testing and analysis will allow you to build or maintain a product that addresses new challenges.

Market trends, UI trends, and even your audience can change! There are also new technologies, followed by new solutions that users are often waiting for. If you miss any of these changes, you risk lowering the standard of the product you are offering, even if it was once well-designed and perfectly suited to users’ needs.

Therefore, it is necessary to be up-to-date and regularly check what works and what does not, preferably directly with end-users, through methods such as usability testing.


Many times we have seen digital products that, despite their great potential, did not meet users’ expectations. Non-intuitive UX was guilty. Our clients often have great ideas and are open to innovation. However, they don’t always know how to go about it or skip some important aspects. There is nothing strange about this. But that is precisely why the help of specialists is sometimes irreplaceable.

Whether it’s a web or a mobile app, almost any digital business across industries can benefit from user experience improvement. Likewise, whether you’re just opening a startup or already running a business, investing in UX testing can never be a bad idea. Jeff Bezos himself invested 100 times more in UX than in advertising in Amazon’s first year. And you know how his business is doing. 

However, you don’t need to spend millions to start working on enhancing your UX. Usability testing, which we discussed in the article, can be a good and cost-efficient solution. If you want to discover more benefits of such an approach on the example of a real company, read the following article, where we show how the conversion rate increased by 13% by improving the UX design in Da Grasso’s ordering system.

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