In my experience of helping our clients build dozens of apps, the one tool that stands out prominently and the one that has proved most impactful is usability testing.
You can have a technically superior app but if it is not user-friendly, it is going to be a flop.
Ever since we started employing usability testing for all our projects, we have seen user engagement skyrocket. Having an intuitive app no longer seems like an art. Usability testing almost guarantees an intuitive app that will simply wow your users.
In this post, I will highlight what usability testing is, why it is important and how to conduct usability tests.
1. What is usability testing?
Usability testing, as the name implies, means testing your app (or for that matter any product) with end users to check if the product you are building is usable – if it is intuitive and user-friendly.
The focus is not on finding bugs but to uncover usability problems and improve the experience of your app.
2. Why to do?
You and your developers are heavily involved with your product and know it inside out.
You are too close to your product and no longer have fresh eyes.
Many screens that you come to take for granted could actually be incomprehensible to a user who is using your app for the first time. Some flows you thought were straightforward could actually be confusing to users.
Usability testing is about observing how a new user with fresh eyes uses your application. You will unearth confusing navigation, incorrect understanding of your message, user frustrations and you will gain insight on how to improve.
Usability testing helps to make your app intuitive and user-friendly which are essential to make your app a success.
3. How soon in the development process can you start usability testing?
Right from paper prototypes to a finished app and anything in between can be tested for usability.
Wireframes, visual designs, intermediate builds and final app are all candidates for usability testing.
The earlier you test the better it is. It is better to start testing right from paper prototype stage than to start after the app is completely developed.
4. How is it done?
There are many ways you can conduct a usability test. I will describe a simple, effective and inexpensive method called guerrilla usability testing.
You need 5 candidates. They could be your colleagues, friends or someone in a coffee shop. Ideally, someone who fits your target audience profile exactly would be great … but a broad match is also fine.
You give your app (or prototype) to a candidate and ask them to use it. You may ask them to perform specific tasks. E.g use this app to buy a gift for your mother.
Ask them to think aloud as they use it.
Once they start using the app, you will get comments such as “I was expecting the search bar on the top instead of it being hidden in the menu”, “the map has too many points and is confusing me“, etc. Such feedback are gold nuggets for you to improve the experience!
Once they start using it, note down their feedback.
Usability testing with just 5 candidates can uncover more than 85% of the usability problems. When you compile their feedback, a pattern of common usability problems emerge. You can focus on these and make changes to your application.
Here is a nice video from Google on guerrilla usability testing:
Usability testing helps you make your app more intuitive and user-friendly.
Your app might be technically robust and bug-free but that doesn’t ensure that it is a pleasure to use.
In this post, I highlighted the guerrilla usability testing method which is simple yet highly effective to uncover usability problems.
What do you think? Leave your message below.