An Elaborative Discussion of Usability Testing


“Usability” denotes certain factor’s about the user’s experience with a product or a system.

The key factors which suits to the usability are:

Ease of learning:-This factor describes how fast it takes a user to learn the system in order to achieve basic tasks.

Efficiency of use:-This factor describes how much time will the product/system takes to perform the task once the user undergoes with the product.

Memorability:-This factor determines how easily the user remembers the use when he/she approaches the next time.

Error frequency and severity:-This determines how frequent are errors in the system, how severe the errors are and how do users recover from errors.

Subjective Satisfaction:-This factor determines about how the user react to the system/product and what the user feels about it.

What is Usability Testing:

“Usability testing” defines the measure of the quality of a user’s experience when interacting with a system i.e. a website, software application, mobile technology, or any user operated device. Basically usability testing is performed to determine a user interface design problem which is done in two levels:

On a conceptual level– this relates to navigation, user orientation and UI constituency

On a detailed design level-which refers to GUI standards and guidelines, terminology used specific problems. Once the problems are found they are prioritized by severity and are suggested for redesign.

During testing, users are observed interacting with an application. The test setup is designed to be as faithful as possible to all conditions and user types targeted by the product. Tests are usually videotaped. The sessions are observed and the tapes subsequently studied to discover trends and to extract performance data. Elements of the interface that are effective across the test population can be considered validated as well designed solutions. Elements that consistently fail are identified, analyzed and redesigned to improve user interface effectiveness. 

Importance of Usability testing:

Generally product quality problems undertake two major forms-one is the programming bugs and other is the design flaws. If these problems are exposed late in the product life cycle then the costs associated might increase exponentially. So accurate knowledge of the usability of a given user interface reduces risk in later stages of development.

Apart from reducing risk it also maximizes ROI (Return on Investment) by injecting realistic and accurate measures into the design and development process. It is basically carried out at various stages of the design process. In the early stages of development, clients especially value wizard test as it allows quick estimation of a proposed design. In the mid-stage of testing prototypes, results with higher fidelity measures, thereby influencing the design while it is still flexible and responsive to change.

Methods of Usability Testing:

Laboratory experiments:

In this method of testing, users are introduced to the system and are required to perform several key tasks according to preset scenarios. The test may be performed on a real project, or on a demo that specifies the system that are to be tested. User activities are recorded using two cameras one that records on-screen activities and the second that records the user response and expressions.

On-site observation:

This test is conducted onsite. It is usually done when the system or environment are too complicated to be replicated in the laboratory. This test helps to study users in their real environment. The advantage of this type of testing gives the users a less formal feeling regarding the test and enables a relatively long observation period. It also helps to collect information from a real environment rather than from preset scenarios.


This test method reveals about the detailed feedback from the users about the use of the system. This gives a good indication regarding the user’s experience of using the system. In this case an online questionnaire or paper form may be used. The advantage of questionnaire is that the feedback is based on the user’s subjective experience with the system, its perceived usefulness and usability.

Heuristic Evaluation:

A systematic evaluation of the user interface generally performed by more than one usability expert according to known standards (heuristics).This test discovers the critical problems at a relatively early stage. This test is best performed before closing a version and before any other type of usability testing. 

Key Areas of Testing Usability:

Graphical User Interface (GUI): This is the front end or part of the software application or website that the user sees and works with.

Navigation: This determines how the user gets from one place in an application or website to another. This includes the menu structure-one, two or more levels, drop down navigation, hyperlinks etc.

Orientation: This determines how the user knows his location within the application or website. The user’s orientation is critical for future navigation and for a feeling of “understanding the application” and easily correcting navigation mistakes.

Constituency: This determines the action’s that cause the same reactions in similar situations. For e.g clicking on a hyperlink opens a pop-up window whereas clicking on button takes you to a new screen.


Usability testing not only evaluate the use of the product but also improve the process of iterative design as designers are provided with critical usability information that can guide the design during the process and thus demonstrate the predictive validity of the service, rather than at the end of the design phase.


Written By: Srikant Das, QA Engineer, Mindfire Solutions


Posted on April 11, 2014, in Agile Testing, Manual Testing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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