Introduction To Usability Testing

Posted 8/6/2014 12:08 PM by Curtis Lauterbach and Michael Nelson

Organizations try to set themselves apart from their competition by creating products that meet user needs and offer a unique and enjoyable experience. To maximize the user experience, a given product should always undergo usability testing. Usability testing is the method of using data from target users to ensure that the product is meeting their needs. Those organizations who allocate resources for usability testing, separate themselves from their competition by ensuring their products meet and exceed user needs.  In this series of articles, we discuss the concepts and benefits of usability testing, commonly used tests, and how to start a usability lab.


Usability testing is the method of determining if a product allows users to accomplish their goals efficiently while providing an enjoyable experience. Testing helps drive the development of a product as it provides the project team with user feedback and promotes enhancing the user experience. In addition to gathering feedback, testing informs project teams which designs offer the best experience. When in doubt about the superiority of different designs, perform a usability test.  This process will save time as the team’s efforts can then be focused on the version that offers the best experience.

Another major concept in usability testing is that it can be performed throughout the entire project’s development process.  In the initial stages, users can view a paper prototype of the product’s design or a focus group can watch a presentation of low fidelity wireframes.  These activities give valuable insights into what users need and how they would interact with the given product. In addition, testing assists in finding problems with the design that the team may have missed. Design teams can sometimes get too close to a product and can overlook issues that user groups might recognize.


Users are becoming more vocal in their desire and need for usable products.  In order to separate your organization from the competition, usability testing provides flexibility and feedback to change your designs early and often.  Testing also assists in reducing wasted resources.  Although it may seem expensive to have equipment, space, and personnel devoted to usability testing, the return on investment is very high.  On average every dollar spent on usability yields ten in revenue.

The return on investment is not only financial, but social.  Think about a product with poor usability.  If you are like most users, your thoughts of the organization were probably negative.  It only takes one bad product to scar a good organization’s reputation.

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