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In Understanding the Four Risks in Product Development, usability was referred to as the risk of the customer being able to actually use a new product. Ideally it is even more than that and user will actually like it. For that, usability testing is required which has been mentioned already when ‣, as part of the overview of types of user research that also included usability labs.

Usability Testing

In a usability testing session, a researcher will ask a participating user to perform a series of tasks by using dedicated tools or user interfaces designed for these purposes. The participating user then completes these tasks, step by step, while the researcher observes the behavior, notices obstacles and listens for feedback.

User Interview vs. Usability Testing

To understand the difference between a user interview validating value and usability testing, see the following comparison:

During a user interview

During usability testing

Running a Usability Test

As depicted on the right, a usability test is best executed in a dedicated "lab" such that there is some controlled environment that allows to observe the user.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

Before the actual test session is actually conducted, it needs to be planned and users recruited. So, the actual goals of the test have to be clarified, infrastructure provided, and a target user needs to be available ideally for a face-to-face session. Users could be recruited from existing customers, from subscriber to a newsletter service, they may be found where they typically congregate, or dedicated agency might help in recruiting. What is essential, though, is that any such user is from the target market and knows enough about the subject to be able to provide valuable feedback.

The actual test session then usually consists of

The latter is particularly important. It is the job of the researcher to quietly observe, to even see the user struggle. Any help, hints or guidance would, in fact, distort the result of the entire experiment.

At the end of the test, reserve some time to, of course, thank the participants for their help and address any follow-up questions that might occur.