The Ultimate Guide To Usability Testing

Everything in marketing needs to be tested—even your website. Usability testing helps you to understand if the user experience on your website or app works exactly how you’re envisioning, and no one gets lost in the process.

Throughout this article, we’re going to further define usability testing, share why it’s important, and walk through the process of how you can test your own website or app.

Let’s get started.

The Ultimate Guide to Usability Testing:

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is a method of determining how easy your website is to use. Also known as “user testing,” this process involves observing real users as they navigate a website or app to see what actions they take and if they’re using it as intended.

This observation is typically done by a UX researcher for a company or UX design agency in order to identify any usability issues in a new website, app, or another type of digital product.

They’re then able to take this user feedback and implement necessary changes to further improve the overall experience before launch.

Why is Usability Testing Important?

Designers and developers are really close to the project, so it can be difficult for them to pinpoint usability issues. This is why bringing in actual users for usability tests can be a great way to ensure the website or app works as planned before it’s launched.

There are a number of benefits to this type of testing that can help save time and money on any big project.

Usability testing

Validate Ideas

Usability tests can start as early on in the development process as you want. As soon as you have some kind of prototype or rough draft, you can get users in to start testing it to see if (a) your idea makes sense and is something they’re interested in, and (b) they understand what your idea is supposed to do.

Early-stage feedback can help you make informed design decisions and change course before you’re too far gone in development.

Identify Usability Problems

Whether your test product has complex flows that users need to follow or you just want to make sure the overall navigation makes sense, you always want to have a testing session to make sure actual users are able to easily figure out how it’s supposed to work.

Furthermore, seeing test subjects struggle to figure something out on your website or app can be a much more valuable form of feedback than a simple description of a website error.

By incorporating testing into your design process, you can easily identify usability errors that were found by a real person, helping you to adjust and deliver a final product that exceeds user satisfaction.

Understand Target Audience Behavior

Watching how your target users navigate your website or app provides quick insights into their overall behavior. Even if they don’t find major errors, this insight will allow you to further improve the overall usability of the website simply based on how they seem to prefer to use it.

And even if there were no actual issues, having an understanding of their behavior is a great way to make sure you’re satisfying the overall customer experience on your digital product.

Provide an Optimal User Experience

Piggy-backing off of our last point, feedback from user testers is incredibly valuable for creating fact-based design decisions that ensure your final iteration provides the best user experience possible. 

And of course, the better the experience, the more likely a customer is to stick around and become a loyal, returning customer.

Types of Usability Testing

Before you get started with your usability studies, you have to decide which type of testing you want to run. There are a few different types to choose from.

Types of Usability Testing

In-Person vs. Remote Usability Testing

In-person usability tests require that the participant(s) and moderator/researcher(s) are in the same physical space during the test. The moderator will likely sit with the participant and watch as they complete the test, walking the participant through each action they want them to take.

Remote testing can be done in one of two ways: moderated or unmoderated.

Moderated remote usability tests are often done over the phone or internet call so the moderator can view the participant’s screen or speak with them directly while the participant makes their way through the test.

Unmoderated usability testing is done with an online user testing tool so the participant can conduct the test on their own time. There is a recorded list of tasks that the company wants the participant to take, and at the end of the test, the company is sent an overall recording of how the test went. Unmoderated testing is one of the more popular formats because it requires the least amount of time on each end.

In-person testing can be useful to see body language and facial expressions as they navigate your website or app, as that can let you know how frustrated a participant is. However, these types of tests are also more expensive and more time-consuming.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Usability Testing

Qualitative testing focuses on verbal feedback—anecdotes about usability, how people used the product, how easy-to-use they found it to be, etc. This is one of the more common types of usability tests.

Quantitative testing is all about metrics that describe the user experience, like time on tasks or task success rate. While this is still important for gathering benchmarks on overall customer satisfaction, it’s not quite as useful as hearing about specific issues.

Guerrilla or Hallway Usability Testing

This can be an effective usability testing method if you’re looking for people who may never have even heard of your product, app, or industry. With this, you set up your study in a public area with a lot of foot traffic so you can ask random people to participate in your test.

Hallway testing allows you to engage participants who don’t have experience with tests like these. Instead, they’re randomly chosen people who haven’t prepared at all and are sitting down for a usability test for the very first time, providing you with candid feedback on your product.

Usability Testing Questions

Usability Testing Questions

After deciding which usability testing process to use for your product, it’s time to pinpoint which questions you should ask during your test. 

Keep in mind that you don’t want your implicit bias to show in your questioning. Choose questions carefully so that you’re able to get the participant’s exact experience, rather than your perspective of their experience.

Break your questions down into the various phases of your usability testing session.

Screening Questions

These questions help to categorize your testing audience and make sure they fall in line with your target market.

  • How old are you? [Provide age ranges]
  • How would you describe your gender?
  • What is your highest level of education?
  • What is your household income? [Provide income ranges]
  • What is your profession/what industry do you work in?
  • How would you describe your ethnicity?

Pre-Test Questions

Once you’ve properly screened or qualified participants, ask a few pre-test questions to gauge their familiarity with your brand or industry.

  • How much time do you spend online?
  • Have you ever used [insert your website/app/product here]?
  • If yes, how often? When was the last time you accessed/used it?
  • Have you used a similar [website/app/product]?
  • What device do you use to access [website/app/product]?

In-Test Questions

These are questions that you should ask during the test, while your participants are using your website or app. They’ll help you gather better insight into how they perceive your product.

In-test questions can of course only be asked during a moderated study. In an unmoderated study, these will likely take place alongside post-test questions that you send after reviewing their test recording.

  • What do you think about the overall design/user interface?
  • How was your experience [taking action]?
  • How would you describe your experience using this website/app?
  • When you want to [take action], where’s the first place you go?
  • I saw that you [took action]. Can you explain why?
  • What do you think of [webpage/navigation/other specific features]?
  • How satisfied are you with [feature]?
  • Which aspects of [website/app/product] do you use the most? How about the least?
  • What do you think of the way the website is laid out?
  • How did you find navigating to [feature/page]?
  • What prevents you from completing a task?
  • What did you expect [action] to do?
  • Which of these two options to [action] do you prefer? Why?
  • Based on [previous action], how would you have preferred to [take action]?

Post-Test Questions

After the test, you have one last chance to ask any follow-up questions that you may have about their experience with your product. Asking additional questions can help you to finalize the top changes you need to implement before your product is ready for launch.

Questions to ask include:

  • How difficult was this test on a scale of 1 to 5?
  • What was your overall impression of [website/app/product]?
  • What was the best thing about [website/app/product]?
  • What was the worst thing about [website/app/product]?
  • If you could change one thing about [website/app/product], what would it be?
  • What more would you like to see of [website/app/product] in the future?
  • How would you compare [website/app/product] to [competitor]?

Start Usability Testing Your Website

Start Usability Testing Your Website

Make sure your target audience is using your website the way they were meant to. Put together your own usability tests to see if there are any issues that should be fixed to improve the overall customer experience.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is usability testing done?

Usability testing can be done in a number of different phases during the overall design and development process.

Your first round should be done after your initial prototype is complete, then again after each round of updates to make sure the site makes sense and is easy to navigate.

What happens after usability testing?

Once you’ve completed each round of testing, it’s time to gather feedback and compare. If you find a common theme amongst each tester’s report, then you’ll want to revisit that part of the website and make sure you adjust it in the site during your next round of edits.

Who does usability testing?

In a usability test, you have a researcher or moderator sit with a participant (ideally from your product’s target market) and observe as the user performs various tasks on the website. This could be a mixture of allowing the participant to navigate the website on their own along with having the moderator ask the participant to perform specific tasks.

What are the five goals of user testing?

There are five main goals, or the five “e’s” of usability testing: efficient, effective, engaging, error-tolerant, and easy to use. All user tests should help your team strive to meet each of these goals.

What do I do before user testing?

Before you even start your tests, make sure you have a working product or prototype for the participants to test. Then you’ll need to pinpoint your target audience for testing and find a moderator for the tests.

About the Author
With over 15 years in content marketing, Werner founded Influencer Marketing Hub in 2016. He successfully grew the platform to attract 5 million monthly visitors, making it a key site for brand marketers globally. His efforts led to the company's acquisition in 2020. Additionally, Werner's expertise has been recognized by major marketing and tech publications, including Forbes, TechCrunch, BBC and Wired.