How To Run Usability Testing For User Experience

How To Run Usability Testing for User Experience Design (UX)
by Tim Moad
23 Nov 2020
10 min read
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Usability testing is the process of testing how easy it is for the users to complete a task on your website, app, or any other digital product. It enables you to check customer satisfaction, how efficiently and effectively they can complete the assigned tasks, and whether they enjoy it or not. This is the bridge between business decisions and the real world. Once you have observed your user while using the product, you will be able to see the flaws in your product and improve upon it. You can also ask for the user's feedback and gain critical insight about what can be modified to give maximum satisfaction to the user. There are various types of usability testing; moderated, unmoderated, comparative, assessment-based, remote, non-remote, etc. In this blog, you will:


  1. Find Out What Usability Testing Is For UX Design
  2. Learn strategies For Usability Testing For UX Design


Before we get started with the details, here is a brief video to catch you up with the basics of Usability Testing. Be sure to read the blog all the way through if you really want to understand usability testing for UX Design.



Usability testing is a process where a facilitator (who is mostly also the researcher) assigns single or multiple tasks to a user. The user is asked to complete these tasks on your digital product while a facilitator takes notes of the user's behavior. This enables the researcher to identify problems that the user comes across while using the product. It also sheds light on any hidden opportunities and allows the researcher to find out more about the user's preferences. Usability testing plays a crucial role in turning online traffic to sales. 


Usability testing usually takes place in the 'Design' phase of a product. If possible, Usability testing should be done on an existing product to find out the current problems that the users are facing. This will help you focus on finding solutions for these issues while redesigning your product. Having a redesigned product does not mean it is free of mistakes and improvement. It is essential to test its usability again to assess whether the new product is satisfying the user's needs. In the 'Design' phase, usability testing is done using prototypes to avoid unnecessary costs. Usability tests can also be conducted at the end of the 'Development' phase. It is always a good idea to have a slightly bigger window for fixing any last-minute bugs before launching your final digital product. Ideally, if your resources allow, you should keep doing this throughout the entire process of your product development. Remember, persistence is the key if you want improvements. 



A research participant can be anyone starting from stakeholders to the current user of your product. By observing and taking feedback from participants, you gain insight into how you can integrate their background and inclinations into the remaining project. Several factors can be employed to select or hire a research participant. These factors include things like availability of time and money, the purpose of the product, etc.


Here are a few best practices for recruiting research participants:


  1. Recruiting the participants through a research agency: This is an expensive but highly effective way of getting research participants for a specific target group of users. A significant advantage of this method is that you can go back to the agency anytime for follow up questions or information, and they will provide you with the required results with correct data.
  2. Using Social Media: Social Media helps in captivating current user's attention and make them participate in a survey or an interview in return for a small prize. It is essential to identify the prize, which will be the most motivating for a user to take the survey. The higher the reward, the more detailed can your questionnaire be. 
  3. Talking: Only talking to customers in case of a B2C or a B2B company will get you a significant amount of people that are willing to take part in the testing processes against an incentive. The incentive can depend on the complexity of the task that the user is required to perform. Offering an incentive is usually a prerequisite for all types of participation by the user in the design and development phases of a project. 



Usability testing methods are divided into three categories:


  1. Unmoderated vs Moderated
  2. Remote vs Non-Remote
  3. Comparative vs Assessment


Moderated vs Unmoderated

Moderated testing is a process in which you will require the active participation of a user and a moderator, in person or remotely. This method is used to test products wherein the moderator guides the user through the tasks supports wherever needed, and is available for feedback immediately. It is often an expensive way of usability testing as it can cost a lot even to get an hour of the user's time. Apart from the cost, it often needs to be carried out in corporate settings, which is not possible for every enterprise. A significant advantage of this method is that it allows direct interaction with the user through what researchers like to call "thinking aloud" and enables the moderator to follow the user's thoughts when they are getting from one touchpoint to another. Offering remote moderation can be used as a solution to cut down the costs of moderated usability testing in the long run by developing better software to monitor the user's body language. 


Unmoderated testing is a process in which the participants will not be provided with any moderation or support while completing the tasks. However, the process of testing will remain the same; the participant will be thinking aloud. Their thinking process will be recorded for the researchers to observe and work on later. Unmoderated testing came into use only a few years ago due to the existence of remote user testing platforms. Unmoderated testing is a cheaper and less time-consuming method as compared to moderated testing. It also assures more unbiased behaviors of users while doing a task as there is no human influence. However, it does take away the chance of intervening to solve any queries that the user might have, which leads to inadequate test results. 


Comparative vs Assessment

When you see the word "comparative", you think of benchmarking your current user interface against that of your competitors. Comparative tests are usually conducted with the help of quantitative metrics such as time taken to complete tasks, error rates, etc. This method of testing will take into consideration the fortitudes and deficiencies of two or more products based on the real experience of a user. With the help of comparative usability testing, it becomes possible to measure how well your product looks when compared to your competition. 

Assessment testing is done when you want to know your user's satisfaction with your product and its usability. The assessment is carried out to take account of the product's general working. 


Remote vs Non-remote

Remote testing is ideal when the budgets are tight, participants are not in the vicinity, and the schedules do not match. It is a process where the participant is recorded in their natural environment with the help of software that shares screen and records voice while the user interacts with your product. If you want to collect many samples, it is useful due to its inexpensiveness. However, there is a time limit of up to 15 minutes, plus you won't have any active interaction with the user and will not be able to see their body language at that time whatsoever. 


Non-remote usability testing is often used interchangeably with in-person usability testing as it refers to a process where you need a participant (user) and a facilitator (researcher). The facilitator will guide the user through the task and stays present for any assistance that the user might need and later on collects feedback from the participants and uses this information to improve his product ultimately. 



I recently was a part of a podcast where I spoke in-depth about usability testing! Make sure you follow me on Instagram to be notified when a new podcast releases.


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