Usability Testing – A Key Tool in Creating a Great User Experience
By Tamara Kenworthy, PCM, PRC | President, On Point Strategies | 2007-2008 AMA Iowa President
We throw around a lot of buzzwords in marketing and research, and sometimes a new one comes along and shakes things up. User Experience (UX) is one of those newer buzzwords that has generated a lot of attention the past few years. Some think this is just a fancier way to describe Usability Testing, when in reality they are two different things.
Simply stated, Usability Testing is a research step that measures the usability, or ease of use, of a specific website, application, product, etc. UX is about how a person feels – the emotional connection – when they interact with products, websites, applications, or a business.
Usability Testing is a form of qualitative market research that has become a vital and important tool. Just as organizations conduct research as part of its marketing planning process to incorporate VOC, Usability Testing is a highly effective way in bringing VOC to the specific task of interactive design. It is one of many layers that helps influence the overall User Experience.
Jakob Nielsen, usability strategist said, “Usability has several quality components: learnability, efficiency, memorability, errors, satisfaction and utility. It matters little that something is easy if it’s not what you want. It’s also no good if the system can hypothetically do what you want, but you can’t make it happen because it’s too difficult.”
The great thing about Usability Testing is not a lot of interviews need to be conducted, as studies have found that over the course of interviews, patterns emerge. The important step is to determine the demographic and usage segments of users and conduct approx. 5-6 interviews per segment.
Usability Testing is similar, yet different from focus groups. Focus groups are highly effective, but to evaluate interactive design, you must closely observe users individually as they perform tasks. With interactive design, just listening to what people say can be misleading; you have to watch what they actually do.
Usability testing should be conducted one-on-one with an experienced facilitator directing (not leading) the discussion. A discussion guide is developed outlining specific tasks and scenarios for testing that support the goals of the project. Participants speak out loud describing their actions in response to the facilitator’s questioning.
Interviews can be conducted at a research facility or within a company’s office/lab where they can observe how participants are using a product or navigating a website, while listening to their thought process.
The most important thing is that businesses incorporate Usability Testing into their interactive design process, so their customers’ User Experience is exceptional.