My Top 3 Tips for Usability Testing

May 2, 2021

Did you know that Amazon’s Jeff Bezos invested in usability design 100 times more than in marketing during the portal’s first year. According to Bezos, this strategy was the one that led to Amazon’s overwhelming success. In fact, IBM reports that every dollar invested in usability brings a return in the range from 10 to 100 dollars.

Point made? The benefits of usability testing are easy to understand, but what does it take to carry out a successful UX test that will lead to digestible results and tangible improvements? Here are my top 3 tips (and resources) to make your next usability test successful.


1. Create a test plan

Of course — this is an obvious first step, but it should not be taken lightly — because this step will guide your entire process and will dictate the quantity and quality of the data you end up with. Your test plan should focus on answering two important questions — what you are going to test and how you will measure the results. Depending your product and situation, you will have either open-ended or specific tasks / questions.

An open-ended approach allows users to explore the app to get familiar with it. This type of test is useful when:

  • Attempting to pinpoint areas of your product that are popular with users
  • Working on product pain points
  • Conducting exploratory research

Specific tasks let the users know what they’re trying to accomplish. This test is useful when:

  • Exploring a set feature or functionality
  • The product is complex and it needs testing at multiple stages of the design process
  • Your team wants to ensure conversion is optimized

I’m not going to go deep into the test script today, but you can get an in-depth look at how to create one here.


2. Recruit & Test Your Participants

Recruiting usability testing participants is usually one of the longest steps in the usability testing process. You should define the characteristics of the users as specifically as possible and you should also recruit via the proper channels. Relying on professional help in this stage can give you the best possible outcome in the shortest amount of time.

Having a solid user persona will help tremendously with this step. You can read more about creating them here.

During the testing phase, remember to keep your test script handy and follow it for all participants. Always avoid leading questions and take time to learn how to probe. This will ensure you get the maximum feedback from each participant.


3. Document your results

Distilling, summarizing, and organizing usability testing results after your testing sessions are finished is a time-consuming process. However, it is one of the most important steps. Don’t rush through the process — double check for errors that could make your data unreliable.

Findings can be documented in a number of forms:

  • A spreadsheet with notes
  • Audio recordings
  • Screen grabs and video recordings
  • Feedback and surveys filled out by the participants themselves
  • Success rate percentage calculations
  • Error rate percentage calculations

Make sure to present your results in a succinct way — through a clean report document and/or a powerpoint presentation.