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Usability Testing

1 April 2013
Meirav Barsadeh

Usability Testing is one of the most important research tools when designing a User Experience. This examination introduces the product to current or potential users (depending on the purpose of the examination and product) in order to check how those users cope with the product. The product can be either an object or a program. The same principles apply in both cases.

Usability vs. Usefulness:

Usability is the ability to cope with the site/system and perform the expected actions;

Usefulness is the value received from using the site/system.

When testing usability, the central question we would like to ask is: how much cognitive effort should the user incest in order to reach the desired information. In order to answer this question, we can use other guideline questions:

Have the users found what they were looking for?

Were mistakes made along the way?

Has the user experienced any dilemmas along the way?

Is the system comfortable and enjoyable to use?


We are not referring to a one-time process. Usability tests can be performed during different stages of the project, for different reasons:

  • Before beginning a project in order to check the current situation.

  • During the project, when initial Wireframes are conceived, even if only on paper, in order to check the design: does the design meet the usability standards defined in the project? Do the users work with it in an efficient, satisfying manner? Many a time we discover places in which users become 'lost', i.e. don't know how to complete the task they were appointed.

  • Near a project's completion, when the graphic design or even the prototype is available, in order to review the design.

  • When the project is completion in order to perform Quality Assurance tests.

  • Occasionally, when the product/program is already in use, in order to review the changes.


Usability tests can be performed in one of three ways:

  • In a Usability Lab, i.e. in a special room adapted to this purpose on some level, containing: recording devices, a one-way mirror, etc.

  • Frontally, instructor in front of user: a one-on-one usability test can reveal quickly a vast amount of information on the way people use the product.

  • Remote Testing.


There are several ways and services to perform remote usability tests (i.e. tests conducted with the test subjects not facing the examiners):

  1. The Five Second Test: presenting certain contents for five seconds only, followed by several questions regarding the viewed content, such as:

  • What is the service offered by the organization?

  • What action should be performed on the page (sign up, download etc.)

  • What is the name of the company?

This method can assist in examining the user's memory regarding contents/design/sales offers etc. In this test, each subject types the answer by hand.

  1. Click Test: Presenting certain contents then asking the subject to click on a certain area. This method can assist in examining various design versions by requesting to click on the best version. The results can assist in examining where the users have clicked the most and the average time it took till the user clicked.

  2. The website's navigation flow: examining the site's routes, such as the route from the landing page leading to the purchase or registration. In this case, it is interesting to test the average time it takes to complete the test.

  3. Testing subjects with a personal composition: composing a questionnaire comprised of tasks and receiving the results from a private test subject.

  4. Feedback: the simple and quick way to test a certain item on a page is through prepared answers or free test. We can then shortly receive efficient feedbacks on questions such as:

  • Have you found all the information on the products?

  • What stops you from purchasing the product? (After an extended period of staying on the page.

  • Are our packages clear to you? (On the package purchasing page).

Whether you have a finished product, a prototype or even merely screens designed in Photoshop, a quick check can quickly reveal the product's central usability problems. This way you can save much pain for the users and guesses for yourselves, trying to understand why the product isn't as successful as you hoped.

Good Luck!


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