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Usability Testing

Making a clean, polished product is great, but a product is only as useful as its user’s ability to use it. Your product may be the most beautiful thing that the Internet has laid eyes upon, but if navigating it is a chore, or if the workflow does not make sense, then it simply becomes something to look at and not something to engage with. To understand how expected users interact with your product, incorporate user testing in your plans for creating or revising a product.

Usability testing involves giving users a set of tasks to accomplish with your product and then observing how they engage with your product. Giving users specific tasks will result in more discrete data points to analyze and give the user a better idea of how the product is supposed to be used. Error is natural, and even informative, in usability testing, but any uncertainty should come from design issues, not from poorly worded instructions. Tests should be filmed whenever possible, and notes should always be taken.

Usability testing can be done in a myriad of ways, and there are benefits to each of them. Listed below are the general categories of usability testing (Meyer):



  • The best qualitative data can be obtained when there is someone in the room watching the user attempt to perform the given tasks


  • The most expensive method, since it requires labor, time, and a controlled environment
  • Gathering users for testing may be another cost
  • Presence of researcher may influence data


1. Moderated - Researcher gives instructions and observes user through screen sharing or video conferencing


  • Tends to be just as effective as in-person tests
  • No need to gather users


  • You miss some of the user’s reactions

2. Unmoderated - User is given the test through a testing platform and may complete it at any time they wish within a deadline


  • Least expensive method


  • Involves the most time due to delayed results
  • You are unable to watch the user’s interactions, so data is mostly quantitative

There are also several questions you should keep in mind as you observe the user:

  • Are they able to accomplish the task(s) they have been given?
  • How long did it take for them to accomplish a task?
  • What sort of reactions did they have while performing a task? Was there frustration? Relief?
  • How many clicks (actions) did it take for the user to accomplish a task?
  • Did the user have to ask questions to understand what to do?

A post-test survey is recommended to allow for open-ended questions.


Meyer, Kate. “Measuring User Experience.” Nielsen Norman Group, 2017.