How do we make our offering better? What are we missing that our competitors are getting? Are there any features you would like to see next?
Why? Because building a successful product, service or solution starts with solving for the end user, and improving them requires testing for usability.
But what is usability testing? Why is it important? And, more importantly, how can you develop the right questions to get the answers you need?
What is usability testing?
Usability testing is all about getting potential users of a product or service to evaluate it. This includes completing standard tasks while observers watch, listen and/or take notes.
For example, a website usability test could involve a user clicking through website pages, submitting landing page forms, and testing calls-to-action (CTAs).
Usability testing extends to applications, experiences, and other digital products, not just websites. If, however, all usability testing takes place on a website, then it’s referred to as website usability testing.
Why is usability testing important?
Very often, those with a comprehensive understanding of a product, solution, or service are blind to issues — both large and small. This is especially true when customers have a strong, positive view of a brand or business.
But as usability testing is done by real users who are unfamiliar with products or services, they are much more likely to uncover problems — minor or major — when compared to those who have built them or used them for some time.
By incorporating usability testing into any product, service, or solution, you can get a more rounded and representative view of what they offer.
- Is it better or worse than the competition?
- Does it meet or exceed expectations?
- How does it solve problems better than existing solutions?
All of these questions (and more) can be answered through usability testing.
What are the differences between usability testing and user testing?
Usability testing is more about whether or not users can use your offering, while user testing is whether or not users need it.
In other words, user testing is testing the utility and necessity of your idea, application, or offering. It’s about understanding how people do something currently and if there’s an alternative (or better) way of doing that same activity.
Take Uber, for example. Booking a cab is nothing revolutionary, but by removing the “middle man” with their mobile app, they have removed the friction from a process that seemed to be set in stone. They took something that we all used to do and made it far, far better.
Now, rather than calling a dozen cab services and hoping that one has a driver available (and at the exact time you need them), Uber allows you to simply specify when and where you need to be picked up, and a driver is found within moments.
But that’s not all, the experience is far more personal: you can choose the type of vehicle you want to ride in (from common to luxury vehicles), select accessibility options, and even see cheaper public transport routes. As a result of their success, they’ve pivoted to provide solutions that go beyond picking up and dropping off customers, they now offer delivery services for restaurants, convenience stores, grocers, pharmacies, and more.
Now that you understand the difference between the two, let’s move on to the core benefits of usability testing.
What are the core benefits of usability testing?
As mentioned, usability testing shines a light on the value of a product, service, or solution and how well it addresses pain points in the user experience. Traditionally, usability testing is used to:
1. Gain insight into the relative value of a product
In a highly competitive, predominantly digital market, it’s important to understand what makes your offering better than the competition. With usability testing, you can quickly understand and validate the unique value proposition (USP) of your product. How does it solve problems better than other solutions that people use?
For instance, you might feel that your offering’s USP is its price, functionality, or ease of use… but do your users feel the same?
2. Improve the user experience
What do users think of your offering? Is it easy to use? Is it efficient? Are they motivated to explore it further or do they readily turn to alternative options? At the same time, what do they expect? The feedback they provide at this stage will help to chart a course for what your offering could be, not what it is right now.
3. Identify pain points
What frustrates your users? Discerning their needs and concerns at the earliest opportunity will help you to reduce development costs and time, all while building a more user-targeted offering.
Best practice for usability testing questions
To get the most accurate and actionable results from your usability test, you need to compile suitable questions.
There’s no limit to how many questions you can ask, but bear in mind that the more you ask, the more data your product team will need to go through.
Before you begin, think about the kind of data that you want to capture from your usability testing questions: is it quantitative (e.g. scoring a certain feature from 0 to 10) or is it qualitative (e.g. open-ended questions that provide deeper insight)?
It’s a good idea to use a mixture of both and potentially follow-up quantitative questions with an additional question asking why they scored the way they did.
Moderated or unmoderated?
Another thing to think about is how you want your usability testing to be done. While usability tests used to take place in person, with digital technologies it can now be done remotely to get results faster.
If you’re moderating the test, you can follow up on what participants do, allowing you to get instantaneous feedback. Of course, you don’t want to bombard them with questions. Let them relax and do things at their own pace.
If you’re not moderating the test, you’ll have to write questions in advance. Make sure to test these questions on others before you send them to your users, as you won’t be there to clarify things if they get stuck.
Below are some examples of usability testing questions. Some will be more applicable to moderated environments.
Examples of usability testing questions:
Screening questions — these will ensure you have the right audience for your study
- Can you tell us a little about yourself?
- What is your current occupation?
- What’s your level of education?
- What industry do you operate in?
- What’s your household income?
- Have you used any products in the [insert your industry] before?
- What device do you normally use for [insert solution, e.g. experience management]?
Pre-test questions — these will help to establish the background of the participants
- What kind of device do you use normally?
- How familiar are you with our offering?
- Not familiar
- A little familiar
- Somewhat familiar
- Very familiar
- Use it all the time
- Do you use any competitor solutions?
Testing questions — these will allow you to get the most out of the process
- What stops you from completing a task?
- What convinces you to take action?
- What features do you find most valuable and why?
- What features do you find least valuable and why?
- How long did it take you to complete [x] task?
- What are your thoughts on the language used?
- If you were looking for information, where would you expect to find it?
- What motivated you to [specific action] while using our offering?
- What are your thoughts on the design and layout?
- Which features would you use the most?
- How would you prefer to do [insert action, e.g. updating dashboards] instead?
Post-testing questions — these will provide a rounded view of what participants think
- How easy or difficult was it to navigate through our offering? (0-10)
- What could be improved?
- How likely are you to recommend our offering to a friend or colleague? (0-10)
- Would you choose a competitor offering?
- If so, why?
- What would you like to see added to the [product, service, or solution]?
- How frequently would you use our offering?
- Rarely (2-3 times a month)
- Occasionally (2 times a week)
- Frequently (1-2 times a day)
- Very frequently (3+ times a day)
- What is your overall opinion of the offering?
How can we help you?
If you’re thinking about putting together a list of usability questions to present to a select panel, our survey templates and idea screening guides can provide you with a foundation.
Completely free and designed to cover four key areas of experience management: customer, product, employee, and brand, our survey templates can help you to uncover the information you need to drive breakthrough change.
As for our idea screening guide, check it out for yourself. In it we cover:
- How to filter out viable product ideas before you invest in them further
- A three-step process for effective concept testing studies with single or multiple ideas
- Usability questions to ask and how to interpret the results.