Hackernoon logoHow to Prepare for Usability Testing - Part I by@avrorashuhalii

How to Prepare for Usability Testing - Part I

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@avrorashuhaliiProduct Designer

I will be talking about Usability testing for designers who want to create a new product. Also, designers who work with a long-existing product can also find insights in this article. I will take you through the preparation process for project testing.

What is Usability

Before we start talking about what usability testing is, we need to define the term “usability”.

Usability refers to the ease of access and/or use of a product or website. This is an opportunity to understand, study and use the product more. Usability can be applied to more than just UX design. Let's take a well-known photo of a teapot as an example.

You see the item which was presented by Athens-based architect Katerina Kamprani at "The Uncomfortable" collection. This watering can has poor usability as it is very difficult to use. The level of its usability is low.

So how do you know if your product's usability is good or bad? Did your design solution work well? - For this, you conduct usability testing, with the help of which, you can test your hypotheses and get insights. 

What is Usability Testing

It is an interface assessment method that focuses on how clear the interface is to your users, whether your audience understands how they can achieve their goal with your web-site or application.

With usability testing, you can test your hypotheses and receive design criticism. Also, this research may influence the opinion of management on attempting to better understand the users of the product.

What does testing look like?

There are several options for testing your design. I will tell you about the most common ones.

The first option is Usability testing & Design Prototypes.

Designers create all pixel perfect frames. After the components are ready for frames, the designer creates a clickable prototype. It is important that the prototype must be well developed. If during the research, your respondent realizes that this is not a real site, the metrics may be distorted (you definitely do not need this).

Pros: 

  1. It is not your own time that you are wasting, which means that you are saving the company’s resources. 
  2. If you forgot to add an element to the layout, you can do it at any time. 

Downside: you risk getting distorted metrics if the user realizes that this is not a real website.

The second option is Usability Testing & Coding

If the designer creates pixel perfect prototypes, and then gives it to development. As a result, the designer gets back his/her design, that had been developed and provides a link to the website to his/her respondents.

Pros: the user will not understand that this is not a real site and you will get the metrics you need without distortion. 

Cons: 

  1. Time consuming. The designer creates the design of the layouts, gives it to development, then gets it back, conducts research, makes changes and then gives the layouts back to development.
  2. Costly in terms of resources.

Research method

Before preparing for usability testing, it is worth deciding what research methods you will be working with.

There are quantitative and qualitative methods.

Quantitative research yields numbers in the end. These include the number of clicks, failures of the script, the time it takes to complete the script, the mistakes that were made by the respondent.

In order to obtain the results of quantitative research, companies use additional resources that provide these opportunities. For example, you can try to use UXcam or UserTesting.

The advantage of such platforms is that you can track how the user uses your site by recording the user’s face (and therefore the user's emotions). Also, you can follow where the user's mouse is moving when performing a task.

Qualitative research helps designers know if users understand the interface and functionality and meet the expectations of their target audience.

You can conduct quality research offline by inviting respondents to your office or you can arrange an online meeting. In any case, you will need to record the respondent's face (in order to recognize all his emotions when watching the video), screen recording and audio.

You can use Zoom to conduct online usability testing.

Carrying out quantitative and qualitative research

You can combine quantitative and qualitative research in order to achieve the stated goal of your project. In order to decide what method to use, you need to rely on the testing purpose.

Preparation for testing 

Prepare a plan

In order for your testing to be successful, you need to properly prepare for it, which means planning.

What points exactly should be present: 

  1. Clearly define and document the objectives of the test. What are you going to get in the end? 
  2. Form a test plan. What will be the sequence of actions? What will you do when meeting a respondent? How will you explain to him the task you want him to complete? 
  3. Identify who your target audience is, how to involve it in testing? How much research do you need and how many audience segments do you divide tasks into? 
  4. Conduct research.
  5. Document the results.

Test objectives

During the creation of the project, your team has a list of hypotheses. Check them during testing.

The goal may be getting new insights. Also, the goal can be recording whether users understand the entire flow they are moving along with and identify weak points where users stop, interrupt the work process, or come back.

Test plan

In order to conduct testing with maximum self-interest, you need to prepare a plan that you will follow.

It may include:

  1. Defining task scenarios
  2. Writing metrics
  3. Optionally, create a questionnaire before testing
  4. Creating a checklist for testing
  5. Optionally, you can create a questionnaire after testing

Defining task scripts

You need to define what exactly you will be testing with your users. What tasks they need to solve so that you can test your hypotheses and find out if the interface is clear to users.

For example, if you are developing e-commerce, you can divide it into several task scenarios:

“As a user, I want to find the right product and buy it”

You need to break one large task into several subtasks so that you can record the success of each small part of the task and identify places that are clear or not clear to users. It might look like this: 

  1. “As a user, I want to find the product I need” - here the designer will track the process of using the interface from the time the page of the site is opened, to the transition to the catalog of products, their filtering and sorting."
  2. “As a user, I want to choose the best product by comparing it with others” - here the designer observes how the product comparison function works. How well and correctly the comparison points are located, whether the user sees all the information he needs, how easy it is for the user to make a purchase decision after comparing the products."
  3. “As a user, I want to read the description of the product and read comments from other users to be sure of my choice” - the designer checks how clearly the information is located on the page, whether the user can find the most important description, whether it is easy to find comments."
  4. “As a user, I want to buy the product that I have chosen” - here the designer checks how easy it is for the user to go through the entire Checkout process and make a payment."

Thus, the designer only gives one task to the user, and keeps track of many more. 

Writing metrics

What metrics are you going to get? It depends on the choice, quantitative or qualitative data. I advise you to prepare a table in advance where you will enter the metrics.

Pre-test questionnaire

Creating a survey like this will help you sort your respondents by audience segment (if you have multiple segments). The questionnaire should consist of questions that correspond to your audience and the tasks that you will ask the user during testing.

For example, besides the name, surname and contact information, you can ask the respondent how often they make online purchases. What sites does he use most often and for what? Does he buy things in one copy or does he buy everything in bulk?

These questions can help you to distribute the user to the audience segments of your project. In this case, you can understand that this user refers to a group of people who often buy something for personal use, or it is some kind of a company that regularly makes purchases and makes them in bulk in order to give gifts to their employees for the holidays. Maybe this respondent generally belongs to the segment of the audience that sells something through this site. Depending on their answers, you understand what tasks to give respondents during testing.

Creating a checklist for testing

In order not to forget about some important little thing, write down the points that you should definitely do. These include:

  1. Introduce yourself. It may seem funny, but it is better not to skip this point and give it due attention. Often, people do not fully understand why they are going to be tested, and they can get very worried. Introduce yourself, ask some general questions and tell what will happen to the respondent in the near future.
  2. Checklist for technical features. Is the camera working, audio recording, is there permission from the user to record it.
  3. List of tasks for each audience segment. All links must be ready before testing.
  4. Sheet for notes. Prepare a sheet where it will be convenient for you to record all the nuances that you consider important. 

Post-test questionnaire

For each task, you can prepare questions in advance to find out the opinion of users about your project. Also, you can use the notes that you wrote down during testing, return to the page where you wrote down thoughts and discuss them with the user. 

Audience definition

In order to conduct testing, you need to use your target audience. You can invite people who were previously invited to a user interview to create a persona. Also, you can take new respondents from sources available to you. I advise you to prepare well the letter that you will send to people with an invitation to go through usability testing. This letter plays a crucial part in whether the person will agree to spend their time on your project.

What is the reward? In order to show that you value your respondents' time (after all, they bring tremendous help to your project), it is worth discussing with the company what kind of reward you offer your respondents. These can be chocolates, discounts on company’s products, or cash rewards.

Conclusion

In this article, we discussed how you can prepare for Usability Testing to make it more effective. This is a fairly big process that takes a lot of time.

In the next article, I will tell you how to test, how to document it, and what to do next with the results.

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