Usability testing will truly revolutionize how your team builds products. We aim to make both basic and advanced tests painless.
Building a site or app where business and customer goals align is tough. Prospects can misunderstand what you want them to do, get stuck, and give up. Usability testing is how you detect these problems before they reach production.
The elements of every test
All usability tests boil down to the following steps:
- Give someone things to try
- Watch what they do
- See if they succeed, hesitate or have questions
- Try to understand what's behind their issues
That's the gist, and, of course, there are many ways to vary this, but at its core usability testing is about watching, listening and learning. It is about observing people.
Creating a basic usability test in SoundingBox
The first thing to do is create an account if you haven't already. You won't be asked for a credit card until you're ready to launch your study to participants.
After you log in you'll see an option to create your study.
On the first step, tell us a little more about what you would like to test. If you've got a live website, a website prototype, or a mobile app prototype, just let us know here. Any prototyping platform that lets you export your prototype to a public URL (Invision, Axure, and so on) is supported. (That URL gets entered later when you specify your tasks.)
Next, choose Basic Usability Test under the type of test. We'll give you options to choose the number of participants and the type of device or devices (desktop, or mobile, including Android and iOS) you would like the participant to use.
Seems pretty straightforward. Give someone something to try (we usually call these "tasks") and see how they do. But where do you find these people? Will someone in the accounting department do? How many people should you test? How can you capture what they do for later analysis and share the results? Maybe you're busy designing your product and don't have time to go out and conduct your research.
Thinking out loud
Another critical ingredient is asking the participant to think out loud as they work. Think aloud is also an option presented early in the process and it adds a little cost since we need to incentivize participants a bit more. If you're not sure you need it, we recommend it for all basic usability tests because it gives you a much richer picture of what people think while they interact with your prototype.
How usability testing differs from other methods
Usability testing goes by other names like user testing, UX testing, or user research. All of these processes are more or less the same: they help you see your app or site through the eyes of someone else.
Usability testing differs from forms of research or data collection. It differs from surveys that ask about satisfaction with a product. Surveys typically don't capture behaviors (what people do and don't do)—observations that can be super helpful for figuring out what went wrong and why. It also differs from things like Google analytics. Unlike analytics, usability testing lets you get at the "why"—the reasons behind what people do— more than what happened (the pages they visited for example).
You're well on your way to creating your first usability test using SoundingBox! Read on to dive in a little deeper. One quick way to get started is to choose from one of our expert designed pre-made study templates. There's even one made especially for basic usability tests.
- Screening is how you find your perfect participants using SoundingBox.
- Every study is composed of tasks and questions. Learn more about how to structure your study here.
Going beyond the basics
Usability testing is critical to any project's success, but it isn't always the best approach for answering every question. To put it another way, making your app or site usable only gets you so far. An app can be easy to use but still rub people the wrong way, for example. Sometimes we want to learn about things that are hard for people to notice or articulate consciously. These are some of the reasons why we created experience2—our framework for going beyond basic usability to get at tougher questions.