As the name, it suggests, the term usability means in what manner an application can be used for the purpose it was created. In other words, can we create something that looks and feels better for general usage?
Usability testing in its broad meaning refers to a way to quantify or measure how users find it to interact with a given set of applications and how they can the system by keeping the overall purpose for which the product was created. Finding something about the product could mean whether the product is easy, moderate or difficult to use. In a standard usage, usability testing quantifies the usability of the software application.
Need of Usability Testing
Usability testing will help us know if there is any need to introduce a change or modification to the application we have created in order to make it more user-centric, so that the end user can use the application without any serious problems. The changes introduced to the application could relate to design aspects, procedural changes or even program changes.
Any changes or modifications forwarded by the tester during testing could very critical. Such changes and modifications can either enhance the system’s value or degrade it. The software developers will need to look at the adding or incorporating changes or modifications based on the feedback and comments made by the end user. The feedback made by the end user could be a simple interface change or just a small change in the functionality of the application.
When the intended changes and modifications are introduced into the code system, the system will become more appealing to the end user. The changes introduced by the developer could relate to a small part of the codes or it may relate to the entire package. Usability testing will help the developer to seek for practical solutions when the user will start using the system under varying conditions.
Simply speaking, usability testing is an internal, in-house and house call type of testing that tries to make the product better and secure. The developer will fix all weaknesses, bugs, errors and loopholes before releasing the product to the market
Usability Testing Procedure
Usability testing is a dummy testing that a tester performs inside the laboratory. Therefore, you will need to a testing facility where the tester can try to induce several scenarios, which are as realistic and true as the natural conditions that exist outside. In fact, the system tester will try to mimic the situations that exist with the end user’s system.
While conducting usability testing in the laboratory, tester will work under standard principles of using a software test. It means that the tester will perform all those tests that are mandatory to ascertain the commercial value of the application. Some of the tests that are conducted are functional test, system integration test, unit test and others.
The total feedback or results of the tests are recorded to validate how the user will find the application under different computing environments. The feedback recorded may include notes of the character of the system and applications and the degree of usability vis-à-vis the system application. The feedback may also include issues like what could be changed, added, edited or deleted from the application so that it can become and flexible for day-today usage.
Usability testing can measure many variables as follows:
The time required for the user to complete the basic flow of application
Time taken to know the system and the number of errors that exist while performing a process or an operation
How quickly the user can familiarize with the basic working of the system
How fast the user can recall and use the application’s functions
How do end users perceive when they use the application on their system
Usability Testing Advantages
- Developers can modify the application to encompass varieties types of testing like functional test, system integration test, and unit test, smoke test etc.
- It will ensure that the developers will use all other types of testing that validate the functionality of the application
- Usability testing can be economical and highly effective.
- If you use this test in a proper manner, you can make a very good product even before you release it to the market.
- Usability testing will assist in finding out possible bugs and errors in the system, which are invisible to developers and that may elude other type of testing.
This type of testing has an extensive domain of applications and it needs advanced levels of understanding. Usability testing is useful test that establishes a link between the end user and the software developer for obtaining viable and true feedbacks about the functionality and reliability of the product related to the usage and flexibility.
Usability Testing Techniques
Usability testing is almost similar to black box testing. The main goal is to make people use the product to discover any errors and areas that need further improvement. This test involves quantifying how good test applications respond in four different areas of applications like efficiency, accuracy, recall, and emotional response.
The results obtained will act as baseline or control. Eventually, all tests can compare to the set baseline to arrive at enhancements and improvements.
Here are the additional details about the four areas of application improvements:
Performance –Time and steps needed by people to perform a basic task.
Accuracy – The numbers of mistake committed by people
Recall – Can the user remember anything about the product soon after an extended period of non-use
Emotional response – User’s opinion about all those tasks performed by the user
If you just collect all the above-mentioned details and information, then you will be conducting a market survey. However, suability testing involves other aspects of testing as well. It involves organized and systematic observations under controlled conditions to find out how users can use the applications.
Usability testing involves observing people attempting to use something for a purpose. For example, when conducting tests on some aspects of software applications, you may need to provide testing instructions like how to find possible errors and bugs, how to record response times or how to prepare test notes that contain notes about the performance of the software application.
Usability Testing Methods
Setting up a usability testing involves creating a scenario or a true to life situation, where the end user will be performing a list of dedicated tasks by using the test product. You may also need to use scripted instructions, pauperized prototypes, detailed questionnaires, and feedback forms.
For example, to test installer functions of a software application, you will need to describe a scenario that details how the application installs its codes in the system, the time taken to install them and details like if the system faced any problems while installing the application.
The end user who uses the application will need to take detailed notes in the behavior of both the system and application while conducting the test. Detailed notes on the program will help the tester to create a valid assessment of the system’s usability in an extended application scenario. Basic techniques used to gather necessary data after conducting a usability test may include think aloud protocol and eye tracking.
Hallway testing – This offshoot of usability testing will involve only a few and selected group of individuals will form a cross section of end users. This group will handle the process of testing. All individuals who participate in the test do not know each other and are selected randomly.
Remote testing – Also known as un-moderated or asynchronous usability testing, this testing method will use a specific type of online survey that allows quantification reports from a large group of individuals. Almost similar to a lab test, this testing method is task-based and it allows users to capture clicks and task times. The testing will go in a live environment that mimics conditions at the user’s end.
Automated expert review – Similar to expert reviews, this procedure will provide stability testing by using programs those use good designs and heuristics. The tests conducted this way are quicker and consistent.
Usability testing is an important test that forms the heart and soul of software development industry. With the view to establish extended functionalities, this test is perhaps the most significant among all other tests.