Usability Testing

Why Usability Testing Matters

1. The Impact of Poor User Experience

  • 88% of users will not return after a poor user experience: This highlights the critical need for getting user experience right from the beginning.
  • 91% of unhappy clients leave without feedback: This statistic shows that you might not even know if your software is underperforming.
  • Every $1 invested in UI/UX returns $100: Investing in user interface and user experience is not just beneficial—it's highly profitable.

2. Understanding Usability

  • Definition: Usability means designing a system that a person of below-average skill can use without finding it more trouble than it’s worth.
  • Focus on the Bell Curve: Designing for below-average intelligence ensures you capture the entire market, not just the top half.

3. Types of Testing

  • Qualitative Testing: Observational testing like user interviews and shadowing.
  • Quantitative Testing: Metric-based testing such as surveys and A/B testing.
  • When to Use Which:
    • Early-stage: More qualitative testing to explore various features and usability aspects.
    • Later stages: Quantitative testing to fine-tune and validate features.

Conducting Usability Testing

1. User Interviews

  • Setup: Typically involves sitting next to a study participant and watching them use your software. Can also be done virtually.
  • Recording: Always record sessions to distribute them across the organization.

2. Preparing the Script

  • Professionalism: Reading a script helps set a professional tone and ensures consistency.
  • Permission to Be Candid: Encouraging honest feedback is crucial.

3. The Interview Process

  • Facilitator and Participant Roles: The facilitator should let the participant lead the interaction.
  • Encouraging Failure: Allow users to fail and understand where the software might be falling short without offering immediate help.
  • Trusting Negative Feedback: Trust only what participants say they dislike, as positive feedback can often be misleading.

Post-Interview Steps

1. Distribute Recordings: Share usability testing sessions with the entire organization.

  • Conflict of Interest: Everyone, including sales, accounting, marketing, and HR, should see and understand usability issues to provide diverse perspectives.

2. Voting on Issues: Allow all departments to vote on the top three to five issues observed during usability testing. This collective feedback will guide the development of future features.

Building vs. Tweaking Software

  • Ongoing Debate: Whether to continuously tweak the software or rebuild it from scratch depends on the nature of the usability issues discovered.
  • Evolving vs. Rebuilding: Small adjustments for minor issues, but consider rebuilding if there are significant usability problems or new business needs.

Frequency of Usability Testing

  • Early and Often: Start usability testing from day one, even if you only have a competitor's product to test.
  • Monthly Testing: Ideally, test three to five people once a month. If that's not feasible, aim for once a quarter.
  • Effective Testing: Even with just three participants, you can uncover 86% of usability problems.


Usability testing is a critical component of software development, ensuring that you build features that users want and can easily use. By focusing on qualitative and quantitative testing at different stages, encouraging candid feedback, and involving the entire organization, you can significantly improve your software's user experience and overall success.

Devon Seacrest
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