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How to conduct usability testing for UX

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User interviews and market research may be effective in gathering general insights into the needs and wants of audiences, however, these methods still pose limitations in terms of gathering product data. This is where user testing or usability testing comes in. Usability testing is one of the core UX research methods which focuses on qualitative feedback and observation insights. The process serves to answer key questions such as:

  • Does it match what the users need?
  • Are users able to understand what the product does?
  • Can users navigate through the product?

It works with other UX methods such as UX prototyping, in a process that tests a product’s functionality and ease-of-use through user testers. These testers are provided with certain product-related tasks to complete while the researcher observes their actions, such as:

  • Navigate your way through the map.
  • How do you view a friend’s feed?
  • Access your profile page.

Usability testing can be carried out at various stages, from using in early design stages (lo-fi prototypes) to late stage testing (finished product). It can also be individually used to test new features for continued iterations of a finished product.

Why Conduct Usability Tests

Usability testing is instrumental in identifying gaps or flaws in the design. It plays an essential role in creating a product with a good user experience. It provides unique and in-depth insights by observing how users navigate the product naturally. This helps to challenge any pre-conceived ideas and biases relating to user behaviours that designers may have while developing the product.

For example, designers may add a rotate button for users to switch between camera orientations easily, however, users may be more accustomed to the action of rotating the phone to do so, leaving them confused if they have to press a button instead.

The key goals and actions taken in a usability test include:

  • Assessment of user’s ability to complete given tasks
  • Observation of user’s actions throughout the tasks
  • Identify pain points and opportunities
  • Validation of product use (does it meet the user’s needs)

Seeing the importance of usability testing, how exactly can one conduct usability tests on products and prototypes? Or more specifically, how to do usability testing on mobile applications and web devices?

Firstly, a usability test involves 3 key aspects:

  • Facilitator

The facilitator is the person that would be in control of the usability test, guiding the participant throughout the process and tasks involved.

  • Participants

The participant is the subject of the usability test, involved in trying the product and tackling the tasks. Participants are often asked to verbally voice out their thought process while completing the tasks to give the team deeper insights into their decisions. They usually match the target audiences identified for the product, so that the team can observe product use in a realistic scenario for their ideal users.

  • Tasks

The tasks involved are based on realistic scenarios that users might encounter. Thus, the facilitator would run through these tasks with the participants to observe if they would encounter any issues when doing so.

  • Notetaker

Although it is not a requirement, usability tests can also involve a notetaker assisting in taking down the participant’s observations, actions and thoughts.

How a usability testing session can look like (

Usability Testing Process

A short summary of the usability testing process involves:

1. Planning

You would have to first understand which aspects of your product you want to test. Pinpoint which are the key features or user flows that have to be evaluated. For example, if your product is a budget tracking app, you might be testing the expense tracking aspect of the app.

The method of usability testing also has to be considered. Would the testing be in-person or remote? Would it be qualitative or quantitative testing?

2. Preparing for usability test

After identifying which aspects of the product you are testing, you can then set up your user tasks accordingly. It is important to set up well-defined tasks with realistic goals to meet the testing objectives effectively. These tasks are usually presented to testers in the form of realistic scenarios, to allow them to attempt the design in a more natural manner, as opposed to leading them directly with instructions.

For example, if your task is to get users to try the expenses tracking feature, the presented scenario to them can be “you just returned from a theme park outing and want to track your expenses for the trip, how would you go about doing so?”.

3. Recruiting testers

Besides planning for the number of testers you would need, you would also have to identify the type of testers needed and craft a plan to recruit them. Screening questionnaires and surveys are a great way to filter out suitable candidates that fit your required target demographic. This part is important as recruiting testers different from the product’s intended target audiences can result in the data collected being less effective, irrelevant, and worse, inapplicable.

4. Conducting a usability test

During the usability testing session, testers would first be briefed on the context of the product. They would then be introduced to the different scenarios and tasks to try out. During this process, the facilitator would have to observe how users interact and navigate around the app. Are they able to complete the tasks easily? Did they try to access a function in a way that was not expected? Is the product intuitive for them? Document all insights and observations after every test.

5. Evaluating the results

Once usability testing has concluded, the team can then review all insights gathered to identify key opportunities and problems that they should prioritise. These findings are then used to further improve the product and future testing.


This article gives a brief overview of what the usability testing process looks like during product development. Of course, such testing involves constant iteration and improvements throughout the development process, with many other context-specific nuances. If you are interested in learning how to apply such UX processes in a real-life product, do check out CuriousCore’s 4-month UX Career Accelerator Course, where students get a chance to work with real clients and products, unlike many other UX bootcamps and UX courses.

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