You’re building a product that’s set to change the game in your industry. It’s been in the works for a couple of months.
A quick look at your to-do list and you’ve got:
- User research… ✅
Next up is usability testing. The problem is you have no idea how to begin.
Plus, you have other headaches. What if users can’t find the most important features? Are your labels clear and self-explanatory?
Ahh! Too much stuff to think about!
That’s why pinpointing issues in the user experience is such a pivotal step in the design process.
Usability testing will show you whether the efforts you’ve put in are worth it. And you wanna ensure it’s perfect for users.
Well, you’ve come to the right place!
In this guide, we’ll walk you through a 5-step checklist. It will guide you in evaluating your product’s user-friendliness.
Let’s dive right in!
Table of contents
- Step #1: Define goals and objectives
- Step #2: Recruit participants
- Step #3: Get into the preparation phase
- Step #4: Conduct usability testing
- Step #5: Analyze (and optimize if necessary)
- Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Step #1: Define goals and objectives
Picture this stage as a guide to your usability testing tour. It helps you with directions. And traces the purpose of the testing effort.
The job of this tour guide is to give you an overview of everything you need to achieve when testing.
So, how do you define user testing goals?
First things first, what do you want to achieve?
For example, do you wanna spot user interface errors? Are you looking to make sure users can easily complete main tasks? Without taking useless steps? Or maybe you want to test user satisfaction?
All are valid goals.
No matter which one it is, knowing your goals will shape the entire testing process for you.
After you’ve defined your goals, you need to work out your objectives. Here are some ideas to help out:
- Split the product’s features into key focus areas. Then dive into areas of user experience like form filling. Or navigation. And maybe how users interact with specific elements.
- Set metrics or criteria to measure the success of user testing. Think of stuff like time spent navigating the product. Or how long a user takes to find specific features, etc.
You can also throw in direct feedback from users as the icing on the cake. 🎂
Step #2: Recruit participants
You’ve nailed down the goals and objectives of your usability testing. Hooray! The second step? Making a guest list for your get-together.
Now’s the best time to send out the invites to your usability testing party.
These people will set the baseline for your products. You wanna make sure anyone who makes it to the greatest bash EVER can give you accurate and relevant feedback.
Here’s how the pros do it.
Define your target audience
This is a posh way of asking ‘Who’s the product for?’ So the idea is to think of people likely to use your product.
- Are they in the Gen-Z, millennial, or baby-boomer demographic?
- Where are they located?
- Are they tech experts?
You can then create user personas representing different profiles of your target audience.
This can help you understand the audience and their perspective big time. You basically put yourself in the user’s shoes. You ask questions about their needs, goals, pain points, and behaviors.
This way, you can find better ways to satisfy their needs.
Recruit the best for the job
Now that you have a good idea of who should be in the testing session, let the party begin!
The feedback will set the tone for your product.
So, it’s important to make sure everyone who RSVP’d is ready to rumble. And give you the real-talk feedback you’re after.
It’s time to send out invites to people in your existing user base, if you’ve got one. If not, you can extend your recruitment to other channels, including:
- Social media platforms.
- Online forums or communities.
- Professional networks.
Annoyed about how long it’ll take you to reach out and contact participants?
You can consider employing usability testing tools like UserTesting or UXtweak. These platforms already have a pool of users that’ll likely match your target audience.
They basically record every detail of participants’ mouse movements, facial expressions, and voice.
For example, it takes audio recordings of users thinking out loud as they use the product. It provides valuable insight on what they think.
You’ll have a database filled with suitable candidates for your research plan.
In your remote usability testing party, you can’t have too many guests. There’s no such thing.
Some people are the life of the party. Others are wallflowers. You need both to have a rollicking good time.
This party principle applies to your testing pool too. You need a mix of peeps to reflect the real-world diversity of your target user base.
That means using testers of different cultural backgrounds, locations, ages, and more.
Before the party begins, there are a few more things you’ll need to keep in mind:
- Sample size. How many people on average should be involved in user testing per round? While there’s no figure set in stone, a minimum of five to ten people is a good place to start.
- Incentives. Spice up the deal by throwing in little rewards as a way to say ‘thank you.’ Nothing fancy or expensive; simple and thoughtful will do.
- Consent. If you’re gonna get additional information from testers, seek their approval like they’re the life of the party. (which they are!)
- Confidentiality. Finally, make participants feel safe that anything they say or do won’t be used against them (in a court of law 😉).
If you’ve gotten to this point, then T-day (testing day) is just around the corner.
You need to ensure everything is in order. That’s why this next step is very important.
Step #3: Get into the preparation phase
Welcome to the test plan phase, people! 🥳
This is where you put everything in order. AKA select the different usability tasks.
Before things move further, make sure you’re ready.
Did you explain all technical terms and jargon? You don’t want to confuse people. Or are there any other final touches you need to add? How about the tools and devices you need to make available?
The preparation phase is where you answer questions like that.
Make it easy by splitting this phase into three sections:
- Preliminary questions
- Post-testing questions
Let’s break them down:
The idea here is to get testers comfortable before they get into the main task. Like the warm-ups before a match!
Here are some research questions you could ask:
- What are the testers’ current roles?
- Are they familiar with similar products? If yes, what was their experience?
- What are their pain points and struggles?
- Do they come with any expectations about the product?
- Are they open to signing a consent form? An informed consent lets people know the terms of the study. It puts them at ease. And they’ll make a decision about whether they want to voluntarily participate or not.
Feel free to add more questions you think might be relevant.
While warmups can help players prepare for a match, they’re not the only thing. The coach (aka technical director) needs a good strategy that the players can follow.
FYI you’re the coach in this case. And you need to be ready to get your players prepped for the game.
Think of everything you wanna test in the prototype and get it ready for the participants.
You can follow these steps when preparing:
- Ensure you ask testers how they feel about the exercise — are they comfortable taking part?
- Make sure you arrange the tasks in an order that’s easy to understand.
- Provide context for each task to make it easier for testers and get better results.
- Get everything you need to record testers on a task. This could be high-end PCs or software like Zoom for easy screen sharing.
The match is over. So, what happens next? Is it goodbye for everyone involved?
Not at all!
It’s another opportunity to debrief and collect qualitative feedback from participants. But you need to be prepared. Here are some questions you can ask participants post-test:
- What feature stood out to you the most?
- Seen a platform with similar features before? If yes, what’s it called?
- Think you’d be likely to recommend this tool to your friends, colleagues, or stakeholders?
- Can you share your experience in more detail? (You might wanna prepare specific sub-questions for them to choose from.)
Last but not least, encourage testers to share any additional comments they may have.
Step #4: Conduct usability testing
It’s T-day people, and the most important aspect of this software testing show. The time to hear what your audience has to say about the product.
By now, you’ve done the groundwork and prepared hard for this day. But there are still functions you need to carry out.
Here are some of them:
- Set the stage for your users, especially if it’s in-person testing. Create a library-like testing environment, free from distractions. A controlled environment means having a mediator help users complete tasks. Like a librarian shushing you up for speaking too loud.
Only there’s no wrong or right answer.
Oh, and make sure your product displays correctly on their screens. It should remain usable on various screen sizes.
This way, the participants’ focus is on interacting with your prototype.
- Next, talk about time. ⏲️It’ll be useful for users to know how long it’ll take to complete the test.
- Moreover, it’s time to provide the game plan. You know, clear instructions about the different tasks users will engage in.
- When testing starts, participants become tour guides on their own. But you can nudge them to carry you along by encouraging them to use the think-aloud approach. That means they’ll be talking you through their thought processes as they navigate your prototype. This way, you get a sneak peek into their mind at that moment.
- Last but not least, ask their permission to record them on the testing adventure.
Once the testing show is on, your main job is note-taking and observing participants.
You wanna pay attention to areas on the users’ journey. Like where they paused. Or when there was a change in their facial expressions.
These could be signs of confusion, surprise, or ease. It gives you clues about the areas that might need some improvement.
So, what do you do with all the information you’ve gathered?
Simple: You analyze and implement!
Step #5: Analyze (and optimize if necessary)
The test is officially over, but you still have work to do.
More specifically, analyzing the information you’ve collected from participants.
The first thing you wanna do is classify results into these categories — normal, minor, major, and critical.
- You slap the normal label on issues that are negligible and quickly fixable. This could be a tester not liking a particular font.
- You use a minor tag when feedback falls within the normal bracket and describes low-priority issues.
- Major issues are a high priority and you’ll need to fix them ASAP. An example would be the use of confusing terminologies.
- Critical issues are things like broken links and you’ll most likely have to deal with them quickly.
Secondly, collaborate with your teammates to identify patterns in the results you noted down. You guys can review data together using a special collaboration tool, say MarkUp.io, so you can communicate and brainstorm in a single location.
It’s quite a handy digital tool that can help you streamline the review process with ease.
Finally, arrange the patterns you noticed into the different categories mentioned earlier (normal, minor, major, and critical) so you can start working on them.
When you resolve the changes, repeat the testing process to confirm you’ve implemented users’ feedback.
And that’s about all you need for usability testing.
Seems like a lot of work. But if you follow the steps in the usability testing checklist above, you’re gonna breeze through it like a pack of pizzas.
Level up your user experience
You’re about to embark on a mini-adventure in your product development process.
And like any adventure, starting can be a challenge. To give you a soft landing, we offer you resources from MarkUp.io’s blog ready to guide you at each twist and turn.
Explore articles on topics like UX design, the design process, and more.
What if you wanna connect with your team along the way? Well, MarkUp can be your reliable bridge. Why? Because it supports seamless teamwork on the go.
Ready to smooth out your development journey? Sign up for a free 30-day trial with MarkUp.io today.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Q1. When should usability testing be done?
Teams can incorporate the usability testing methodology when:
- A basic prototype of the product is available.
- They’ve made changes to the prototype or there’s been a major update.
- The product is live to identify any issues that slipped through the cracks during initial testing.
Q2. How many participants are needed for usability testing?
The Nielsen Norman Group recommends testing with five people as they’ll help you find as many usability issues as you would testing with many people.
Q3. What is the difference between moderated and unmoderated usability testing?
The main difference between moderated and unmoderated usability testing is the presence of UX researchers or moderators. In moderated testing, the researchers communicate with the testers and address any problems they might have. In unmoderated usability testing, on the other hand, the testers focus on interacting with the product and subsequently sharing their feedback.