How to Perform Usability Testing on Applications?

An application is usually developed for a particular group of end users. The rating of the application is purely based on the ease of use and performance. So, to make an application easy to use and understandable we have to perform usability testing.

Sometimes we need some additional feedback for the application to take the best from it and it’s better to take the feedback from the users. It has two main benefits. First, you have a clear idea about the improvisation needed for the application. And second, you can easily identify the best elements of your application which are engaging users.

So moving further let’s start the discussion about the various aspects and methods of usability testing.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability Testing is a level of application testing where a little group of target end-users of an application utilizes it to detect the usability issues. This testing, mainly performed just to ensure the user’s ease to use the application. In usability testing, we mainly test the adaptability in taking care of controls and capabilities of the application. User Experience Testing is another name of usability testing. At the initial design phase of the application, we should perform usability testing, so that we can provide the much better user experience.

Need for Usability Testing

Look and feel is a very important factor for an application. It usually determines the working of an application, a better look and feel represents the better working for an application.

There are many software applications or websites, which usually fail, once launched, due to the following reasons.

  • Difficult to understand the flow of the application.
  • Page navigation is difficult to understand which icon represents which functionality.
  • The consistency of error messages or the error messages is not effectively displayed.
  • Session time not sufficient.

We can identify the interface errors in the system early in the development cycle and can save a product from failure.

Advantages of Usability Testing

  • We can achieve a better user experience and as well as satisfaction, additionally, we can get the feedback to improve the user’s interaction with the application.
  • We can evaluate the performance in order to find out that the application is meeting with the goals or not.
  • It is helpful in finding out whether the users are able to perform specific tasks successfully or not.
  • Usability testing is also helpful in decreasing the support cost and efforts.
  • It increases the loyalty of product and also set the benchmarks for the future products.

Goals of Usability Testing

The most important goal of usability testing is to achieve user satisfaction. For that, we need to keep our focus on some key points.

  • The application is effective and the user can successfully complete the tasks.
  • The application should be easy to understand so that the user does not spend much time in finding things.  The main functionality should be there on the home screen.
  • Is the application worth using for the targeted audience?
  • Navigation should be easy, when the user navigates to the desired information then it should not be more than 3 clicks away.
  • The information used in the application should be updated.
  • The content, color combination, images should be beautifully presented in front of the user.
  • The controls used in the application should be explanatory so that there is no need for training to operate.
  • Help section should be there to help the user in using the application.

Usability Testing Process

This usability testing process has different phases.

  • Planning – The first phase is planning phase, in this phase, we identify the goals of usability testing. We also need to identify the basic and the critical features of the application and also the objective of the application.
  • Recruiting – In this phase, we recruit a specified number of test engineers as per the usability plan. These test engineers must match the requirement of demographics location etc. and professional like education, job etc.
  • Usability Test Execution – Finally, the usability test cases comes under the execution.
  • Analysis – In this phase, we analyze the complete data we got after execution. After the complete analysis of test data, we got recommendations to improve the quality of the application.
  • Reporting – At the end, we need to prepare a complete report after the analysis and then this report is usually shared with the team including developers, designers, client and the management.

Methods of Usability Testing

Several methods are there for Usability Testing and you need to follow some of them or the most important one. You just need to figure out which is the best suitable method for your application. I am giving you the explanation of mostly used methods of usability testing.

Hallway Testing

This is the most common approach which requires a limited number of people usually ranged between four to six. The participants to test the application are random people who generally pass you in a hallway, that’s why the name is given as Hallway Testing. We perform hallway testing when our application is not for a specific group of users. We need to perform hallway testing in the early stage of the design phase. The motive of this testing is clear “Test random and fast”.

We need to follow a simple process for this, go out several times, test on four to five person, note the issues and find out the solutions. You need to repeat this three to four times and finally, you get the user interface issues and the solutions to minimize them. Now, you can start developing your application and all the features. This method is very helpful in identifying the design related issues at the beginning and later we can easily focus on the development part more.

The main reason behind the idea of choosing random people is, they will test the application randomly and helpful in finding more issues in your application interface.

Remote Usability Testing

When we need users from different locations to test our application then we need to follow remote usability testing methodology. The reason behind this idea is to minimize the expenses because if we gather users from different locations around the world then the testing cost will be much higher than expected.

In this method of usability testing, the users and observers are remotely located together. The users will then start testing the application and perform some specific tasks on the application. Each and every step of testing is recorded with the help of an automated software. At last the observers analyze all the recorded steps of testing and prepare a final report. So many tools are available for this remote testing, WebEx and GoToMeeting are the most popular among them, but any tool can do this job for you.

Expert Review

It is also a general method in usability testing. In this method, we hire some experts having experience, especially in usability testing. The experts will then test the application as per the principles of usability testing. They evaluate the application on the basis of key factors of usability of application which are visibility, user access, consistency, efficiency and ease of use.

There is an automated expert review method which works on the same principle to test the usability of an application. This method requires software and the reviews about the application are not in a detailed way as provided by the real person.

A/B Testing

It is the most prominent approach to the user experience and interface testing. This is very helpful in identifying the elements in the application which are engaging users. There are two variations of an application commonly known as versions (version A and version B) and these two versions need to be compared. These two versions are identical to each other except the user interface. This approach is mainly for the e-commerce application and also for the interface design part. We need to choose the best one from the two choices which is a much easier task.

Number of Test Subjects

It is better to test the application with a small number of users several times rather than to test it with a huge number of users once. This will give you the quality results, five users are enough for this test to run. You can get enough information about the test results. For example, when a small number of users get confused with the application’s interface then there is no sense of investing time in testing it with a huge number of users. You need to fix all the problems and again test it with the five users.

You need to follow this process once in a week or as per the design process is taking effect. We need to follow this process to solve the maximum number of design issues and also to get the best possible output. The number of tests for the usability of the application depends on the design process. If the design process for the application is longer then the number of tests to perform will also increase.

Sometimes it is a good practice to test the design part with a larger number of users. Once you get all the issues regarding the design, solve them and when your design becomes smooth then accordingly you can decrease the number of users needed for the test. It is very important to keep an eye on the elements that are working fine along with the elements that are not working fine and we need to test them again and again. The main concept for this is, we should remove the elements which are not working and pay more attention to those elements which are working and engaging users.


So, now you can see that you have multiple ways to perform usability testing for your application. You just need to select the best possible method which suits your requirement. This process could seem to be complex in the beginning but once you go through it you will find it simple and effective. Usability testing helps you to make your application’s interface much user-friendly and your user will definitely like your application.

You need to follow the complete process and finally, you will get the desired feedback to improve your application. Cost is a major factor in the usability testing because you need to manage everything needed for it like resources to set up the environment, recruiting and management of usability test engineers etc. Usability testing, in return, gives you the higher user satisfaction, more prominent interface and better performance of your application and it is also profitable for your business as well in the long run. The motive of the usability test is that you should improvise the elements which are failed and again test them.

You can get much more information in the form of feedback from the user. This information will help you to achieve the goals which are set for the application. This is the main reason for the recommendation of usability testing. Thank you!

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