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Usability Testing 101: A Guide for Businesses

What is usability testing? Discover the importance of usability testing and how it improves the user experience of your website.

Before you build a professional website or launch a new product, it's important to find out if people know how to use it. It's common for designers and developers with intimate knowledge of a program or website to miss some usability issues that new users may find.

That's why usability testing is important. Usability testing gives designers insight into issues regular users face when they try a new product. But what is the purpose of a usability test?

Usability testing isn't a new concept. Many companies offer trial or introductory products to gain customer feedback. Some companies even create focus groups or survey a group of their customers after they buy and use a product.

You can see examples of multivariate testing in restaurants when they try out a new menu item. Brands use A/B testing to send out two different versions of a campaign to see which one performs the best.

If you think about it, there has probably been a time when you were involved in product or email campaign testing, even if you didn't know it. Even before online reviews existed, companies found ways to introduce new products or services to a smaller group of customers to gather feedback before they ramped up production.

When a company initiates usability testing, they can use customer feedback and data collection to find areas that still need work before their product is ready to distribute. Continue reading to find out more about the importance of usability testing and how it can improve the user experience.

What is usability testing?

Usability testing is the process of offering new users a chance to try out a program or product so that you can learn how people intuitively navigate or understand how to use the program.

But why do developers and designers offer a chance for new users to participate in a usability test? So they can gain insight into the usability and efficiency of the product.

There are many reasons why testing matters, especially when a business is launching a new product or service. Developers and designers need someone outside of their development team, usually more than one or two people, to use the website or app without any inside knowledge.

This gives the developer the opportunity to see what they've missed in the instructions, transaction, function, or navigation of what they're developing. And one of the best ways to test the functionality of a new product or service is with a usability test.

But what is a usability test? A usability test is a proven method of finding glitches or problems that affects user experience for a new product. Once a developer conducts usability testing, they can go back to work to fix any issues that have come to light, improving the quality of the product and paving the way for a better user experience.

Usability testing vs. user testing

So, what's the difference between usability testing and user testing? It's common for businesses to conduct user testing when bringing out a new product or service.

User testing typically offers users a benefit like a coupon or free trial before they buy something. The goal of user testing is to market and sell the product or service. The product is ready to go to the marketplace for anyone to buy. The benefits users receive are an incentive to buy the product or service.

This is different from usability testing in a few ways. The purpose of usability testing is to ensure the product works perfectly to give new users the best user experience.

If usability testing points out flaws, navigation problems, or implementation issues, the designer can take that information and make the correction. The goal of usability testing is to refine the product.

Why is usability testing important for businesses?

Have you ever bought a product you tried to use but couldn't figure out how? Have you ever visited a website that had poor navigation? Both of these are common situations we've probably all faced, but they can be easily solved by conducting usability testing.

Usability testing determines how new users interact with a product without any extra or inside knowledge. It also helps you identify issues with your product.

Usability problems can impact sales, disappoint customers, or cause users to leave your site. If users have problems with the user interface, usability tests can flesh out the problem.

Remote usability testing is often the perfect scenario for digital usability tests. The test will determine where a user runs into problems and if they identify problems you aren't aware of. Conducting usability testing helps businesses streamline their product development by identifying problems while they are still in the development stage.

Benefits of usability testing

There are several benefits of usability testing for businesses, including:

Improving the user experience (UX)

What is usability testing in UX? A usability testing method can vastly improve the user experience and boost customer satisfaction.

UX is fast becoming the most important factor in the sales of products and services. This is true for in-person sales but even more important for online sales. When you shop for something in person, you can touch and feel a product or get a demonstration of a service when you are in the store.

Online shopping and all digital products don't offer you the ability to touch and feel what you're buying. In the case of digital products or services, it can be confusing and irritating when you experience subpar performance.

User research is critical, but usability evaluation can make or break a product's trajectory. If your website isn't easy to navigate intuitively, breaks down often, or is confusing to a new user, how many times do you think a potential customer will come back and try it again?

Saving time and money

Remote usability tests can save your company time and money before you launch a website or release a new product. It can also save you the need to implement a correction after your product or service has already been launched.

When you get it right the first time, you don't have to recall or redo anything, which will save you a significant amount of time and money.

Helping you find problems early on

Taking the time to run usability testing before you complete your product development is key to helping you find problems early on. Fixing problems is so much easier to do before you ship out a defective product or a problematic service.

Fixing problems early on will affect how people see your company and can improve your business' reputation. People build expectations when they try something new. If you don't meet those expectations, their disappointment can lead to negative reviews.

Enhancing product quality and performance

Product quality improves when you implement a user testing process and complete tasks to fix problems found during testing. This will help to improve the user experience and product performance, leading to happier customers and more sales all around.

How to conduct usability testing

When conducting usability testing, you should create a process that incorporates the following best practices:

Plan the test

The first step of conducting a usability test is to plan the test. Determine what part of your product or service you want to focus on. You also need to consider the type of users you want to test and the questions you'll ask. This will ensure your test goes as smoothly as possible, and you can gather accurate participant feedback.

Recruit participants

The next step is to recruit participants for your study. Remember, your participants should be members of your target audience. You can recruit participants through social media, your website, or even an agency.

After you select the members of your target audience for moderated or unmoderated remote usability testing, it's important to offer clear instructions. You may have chosen to provide the instructions in a certain manner as part of your testing. However, you distribute the instructions, make sure everyone gets the same instructions in the same manner.

Conduct the test

After you recruit participants, the next step is to actually conduct the test and observe participants. It's important to have a testing protocol that you follow to ensure that every test you run goes the same. Ensure all the participants feel comfortable following the test and clearly understand the instructions.

Documentation is also necessary for high-quality usability testing. This can be automated for some of the information to make the documentation easier. But, you should also take notes as you come upon any valuable information and formally document it for your records so you can go back and refer to it later on.

Collect feedback and data

Feedback and data are the best ways to learn as much as possible during your testing. Make sure you implement a way to collect and measure data and ask participants for their feedback.

If possible, you should take notes during the testing process and record the session so you can look back at it after the fact. Don't forget to also ask follow-up questions so you can collect the participant's final feedback.

Analyze the results

Last but certainly not least, you need to analyze the results of your usability test.

The results are only as helpful as the analysis. So, look over the data you've gathered and identify issues that the participants faced. Your analysis should provide you insights into how you can improve the user experience and the product as a whole.

Prioritize the user experience with usability testing

Usability testing can improve your products or services in countless ways. When your users have an exceptional experience interacting with your website or using your product, they will be more likely to use it again and recommend it to their friends and family.

But if you want to improve the user experience for your business, you need the right tools and resources to do so, which you can access with Mailchimp.

Mailchimp has numerous services that can help you provide a better UX to your users. You can use Mailchimp to build your business and create the best possible customer experience.

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