Clever thinking. Beautifully executed.

Usability Testing - What are the options?

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Over the past year the UX team at Realise has changed, not just in personnel but also in our approach, including a renewed focus on usability testing and journey optimisation.

There are two key factors in any project: business objectives and user needs.

These factors go hand-in-hand; meeting the user needs is likely to result in achieving business objectives. By getting a better understanding of the end user, including the barriers and pain points that they commonly experience, we can start to optimise solutions that best meet their needs.

Working with Realise has really helped us understand where we can make immediate and long term changes that we know will make a real difference for one of our key website audiences.
— Verity Pillinger-Cork, Digital Manager, Ofcom

Ofcom appointed Realise to undertake detailed customer insight and audience research work to improve the online user experience of a core area of the Ofcom website. 

This work has been vitally important to understand and inform usability and digital experience, helping Ofcom to continue prioritising usability for visitors to their website.

Test and Learn

Here at Realise, we like to adopt a test and learn approach for all our projects. One part of this approach is seeking user feedback through usability testing.

User feedback is key to any successful project. In the discovery phase, we can learn and understand the issues, barriers and pain points that a user currently experiences, allowing the project team to define a strategy to address these. In the development and delivery phase, this feedback allows the team to refine the solution before go live. Once it’s live, the feedback can be used to further optimise the solution.

There are many ways of conducting usability testing, some better than others. However, the method chosen will always depend on timescales and budget. However, it is always better to do some kind of testing with real people rather than none at all.

Usability Testing options

At Realise we prefer the term “usability testing” rather than “user testing”. While a minor point, it does make a difference to how we think about testing. It is important to remember that we aren’t testing the user, but rather testing the usability of an interface.

There are multiple ways of conducting usability testing, with many names and terminologies associated with the different techniques. I am going to focus on 3 of the most common types of usability testing:

  • Guerilla Testing

  • Remote unmoderated testing

  • Face-2-Face moderated testing

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Guerilla Testing

In guerilla testing, participants are not pre-warned that they will be taking part in testing. We usually find a public place to conduct this kind of testing, such as a shopping mall or a coffee shop. I personally have found great success in libraries and even pubs. Potential participants are approached and asked if they want to take part in exchange for a token gift.

This approach is great when budgets and timescales are tight and you want to get quick feedback on designs to help give direction on which path to take. It’s quick to set up - you can decide to test in the morning, head out in the afternoon and have useful feedback before the end of the day. However, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to find your target user groups to test with. Also, time with participants is normally limited, so you probably won’t get the chance to go into much depth. This can make it difficult to assess usability issues in any great detail, with some issues being missed altogether.


Remote Unmoderated Testing

This form of usability testing is becoming ever more popular. Although not as quick or cheap as the guerilla testing approach, remote unmoderated testing can normally be conducted quickly and inexpensively, with completed tests usually ready to be analysed within a day. However, there are also cons to this type of testing. The panel of participants these services use are likely to have taken part in several testing sessions and therefore tend to end up giving an expert review of your interface. Also, because of the unmoderated nature of this testing, it is impossible to react and ask the participant follow up questions, making it more difficult to get additional context for any issues uncovered.

Face-2-Face Moderated Testing

Face-2-Face testing takes more time to prepare, conduct and analyse, and is usually the most expensive way to conduct usability tests. However, this method also provides the most detailed results with added context and comments from participants to support what’s uncovered.

You can recruit participants based on the exact demographics of the target user group. They will normally be given a cash incentive for their time, allowing you to specify the length of the testing session in advance. A moderation guide is prepared in advance, although - as you are sitting there in the room with the participant - you can also go off script and dive deeper into any comments or issues they highlight, giving you a fuller picture of their experience with the interface.

In addition to this, face-2-face testing allows you to use testing technology, such as eye tracking, which can add another layer of context to the data gathered. Moderated testing can also be conducted over the phone or using video conferencing if it’s easier to recruit the participants for these sessions.

Moderating testing sessions is a skill in itself and something that I will cover in later blogs.


After the testing

No matter what form of testing you use, you’re likely to come away with lots of notes and videos. It’s important to take the time to analyse these fully and draw out the common themes in the feedback. These can then be prioritised with any other gathered insights and you can put a strategy in place to address the issues uncovered.

The type of testing you choose will normally be dictated by the time and budget at your disposal. At Realise, we tailor our test and learn approach to your unique needs and circumstances, giving you the insight you need to achieve your goals.


Get in touch

So if you like what we have to say and you want to hear more, we’re ready to talk.

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