What Is Usability Testing?

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

Learn more about usability testing, from the benefits and different methods to how to get started.

[Featued image] A group of UX designers is usability testing on a laptop.

Usability testing has an important role in user experience (UX) research. By performing usability testing, researchers can gain insight into how users interact with their product or service, allowing them to take note of any potential problems and receive feedback from the participant. This process typically includes three main elements, the facilitator, the participant, and the tasks. 

The facilitator records data and gives directions to the participant during the testing. When it comes to the participant, this person should already be a product user or someone that fits in the target group. The third element of usability testing is the tasks given by the facilitator to the participant. These tasks replicate the use of the product in real life. Read on to learn more about what takes place in usability testing. 

What is usability testing?

Usability testing is a method of evaluating how simple a design is to use by observing how users interact with a product. This allows researchers to spot design flaws, determine whether or not users enjoy the product, and if they find it easy to use. 

When designing a product or system, usability testing allows researchers to assess a product's usability with greater amounts of data, and find solutions to any problems that may arise. 

Usability testing can occur at various stages to test each iteration of a product, from the initial development to its release. This allows researchers to address problems early on when they are more manageable. 

Who uses usability testing?

Usability testing is a strategy UX researchers use to spot errors and aid in the design process. UX researchers study the behavior of consumers through research methods such as usability testing, data analysis, and findings reports. This allows the design team to build products and make decisions based on research findings rather than making assumptions about what may work best. 

Read more: What Is a UX Researcher? How to Get the Job

Benefits of usability testing

Usability testing allows for numerous benefits for producing a quality product. The following are some advantages of usability testing:

  • Provides an opportunity to catch minor errors and make improvements

  • Helps gain an unbiased perspective for products 

  • Performing a usability test is a relatively simple process

  • Provides insight as to how easy it is to complete certain tasks and how long it takes

Types of usability testing

There are three main types of usability testing:

1. Moderated in-person

In a moderated in-person usability test, the facilitator and participant are in the same location. The facilitator can answer questions and helps guide the participant through the test. 

2. Moderated remote

This type of usability test allows for the same dynamic between the facilitator and participant, as the facilitator is still able to guide the participant through the test. However, instead of being in the same location, you use screen-sharing software.

3. Unmoderated-remote

In unmoderated remote usability testing, no interaction occurs between the facilitator and the participant. Rather, you can administer tasks automatically through software. This method is cost-effective and great for gathering large amounts of data. 

Within these three types of usability tests, you can further classify them based on your research goal. Here are the five types of tests you can perform depending on what insights you’re looking to gather:

  • Learnability: Do users have an easier time navigating your product over time?

  • Problem discovery: What issues do users come across when completing realistic tasks?

  • Eye-tracking: Where are people's eyes drawn when navigating the technology?

  • Competitive: How well does your product perform in comparison to your competitors?

  • Benchmark: Is the product becoming more usable after addressing problems and making design changes?

How to run an effective usability test

To ensure you’re running an effective usability test, it’s important to establish a clear plan and objectives. To ensure your usability testing is successful it’s helpful to consider the following factors: 

  • Have open communication between team members

  • Have a clear objective for what specific tasks to test

  • Recruit participants who meet the criteria of your target user

  • Ask participants questions while testing 

  • Collect qualitative and quantitative data to conclude from it 

Getting started with Coursera

If you’re interested in a career in UX design and research, consider earning a Google UX Design Professional Certificate. In this program, you have the opportunity to develop skills such as creating wireframes and prototypes, as well as usability testing. Upon completion, gain exclusive access to career resources like resume review, interview prep, and more. 

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