Usability tests are a popular and promising evaluative method for identifying problems with software, websites, and apps. In a usability test, a UX researcher (the moderator) observes the behaviour of a test subject as they carry out specific tasks within a product (e.g., a website or app) and gathers user feedback. Usability tests can and should be conducted complementary to other research methods and relatively early in the design or development process.
One note upfront: when people speak of usability tests, they often use the term “user testing”. We recommend removing this term from your vocabulary, especially when communicating with users. We are not “testing” our users. Our users are testing a system for us that we are often too close to to see its flaws.
What are the benefits of usability testing?
4 reasons why usability testing is worth your time:
#1 Optimization of Conversion
Usability tests can identify problems within software, websites, and apps, such as reasons for aborts, which can help us resolve them. Therefore, they reveal possibilities and potentials for optimizing systems. Moreover, regular and frequent usability testing can teach us a lot about how users think and act.
#2 Reducing Support Costs
Large companies with customer support can save costs with usability tests. For example, if users have difficulty navigating or using a website, there are often more requests to customer support. Usability tests can help identify and optimize problem areas, reducing customer support requests. This pays off in the long term.
Our tip: have customer support list the top three problems of the last few months and then conduct a usability test regarding these weaknesses.
#3 Reducing Development Costs
Would you build a house without first consulting a structural engineer? Probably not. Unfortunately, it is often believed that software development does not always require a clear plan. Apparently, we can afford to build software without initial evaluation, just to tear it down again if it doesn’t work, and then rebuild it.
Some statements we tend to hear during product development include: “We’ll do that later,”, “Currently, there’s no time to test,” or “That’s so time-consuming, we’ll do it later. ”
But what does it mean when we discover that e.g., users are having trouble with the navigation only after development has been completed?
Usually, it means this:
- First, we must find out precisely what the problem is.
- Based on these findings, we must then create a new concept.
- The new concept must then be reprogrammed, which is usually very time-consuming and, therefore, very expensive!
Conducting usability tests during the design process can help identify potential weaknesses in advance before even a single line of code is written. This can save money and time.
To quote Joyce Durst in “Cost-Justifying Usability” (Bias, 2005):
“It costs much less to code the interface in a customer-acceptable way the first time than it does to introduce a poor UI in the field and then rework that UI in version two. In addition, a poor UI will increase support costs.”
#4 Increasing Employee Satisfaction
Good usability of enterprise software can increase the satisfaction of company employees, work efficiency and effectiveness by reducing stress. Poorly usable software that does not function smoothly can be a hindrance to work and a potential trigger of workplace stress (Frese & Zapf, 1994).
Imagine having to write with a ballpoint pen that is inconvenient to hold and often stops working – no one would put up with that for long – instead, they would get a new pen.
Interestingly, this happens quite often with software in the workplace, where the technology does not run as smoothly as one would like, but it cannot be replaced as quickly as a ballpoint pen. In addition, most people have become accustomed to the idea that “technology is not working properly again” or blame themselves.
This can cause stress in the workplace, which can have harmful effects on employees and the organization. Stressed employees may get sick more frequently, work with less enthusiasm, and therefore be less efficient and effective – also because they simply need more time to deal with cumbersome software or have to look up things or ask colleagues repeatedly.
Good Usability and UX pay off, can save time and costs and have other benefits for the company!
Depending on what you want to find out, there are two main categories of tests that can be used – summative usability tests (summarize results) and formative usability tests (help shape the design within iterative design processes). We will take a closer look at these different categories in another post. Until then!
Would you like to learn more about usability testing? Please feel free to contact us! We look forward to hearing from you.
Bias, R. G. (2005). 22 Chapter – Cost-Justifying Usability: The View from the Other Side of the Table. In R. G. Bias & D. J. Mayhew (Eds.), Cost-Justifying Usability (Second Edition) (pp. 613–621). Morgan Kaufmann. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-012095811-5/50022-5
Frese, M., & Zapf, D. (1994). Action as the core of work psychology: A German approach. Handbook of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/232492102_Action_as_the_core_of_work_psychology_A_German_approach