Usability Testing

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Usability testing is the practice of testing how easy a design is to use on a group of representative users. It usually involves observing users as they attempt to complete tasks and can be done for different types of designs, from user interfaces to physical products. It is often conducted repeatedly, from early development until a product’s release.
It is difficult to evaluate and measure but can be evaluated based on the following parameters:
•Level of Skill required to learn/use the software. It should maintain the balance for both novice and expert user.
•Time required to get used to in using the software.
•The measure of increase in user productivity if any.
•Assessment of a user's attitude towards using the software.

There are a few different types of usability testing or reasons to conduct usability research:
•Comparative Usability Testing: Used to compare the usability of one website with another. Comparative tests are commonly used to compare a website against peer or competitor sites, however it can also be used to compare two designs to establish which provides the best user experience.
•Explorative Usability Testing: Before a new product is released, explorative usability testing can establish what content and functionality a new product should include to meet the needs of its users. Users test a range of different services where they are given realistic scenarios to complete which helps to highlight any gaps in the market that can be taken advantage of and illustrate where to focus design effort.
•Usability Evaluation: This is a test of a new or updated service either pre or post-launch. This usability test introduces users to the new design to ensure it is intuitive to use and provides a positive user experience. The aim of the usability evaluation is to ensure any potential issues are highlighted and fixed before the product is launched.

There are many advantages of usability testing including:
•feedback direct from the target audience to focus the project team
•internal debates can be resolved by testing the issue to see how users react to the different options being discussed
•issues and potential problems are highlighted before the product is launched

The business advantages of usability testing can be seen at the end of the project:
•it increases the likelihood of usage and repeat usage
•it minimises the risk of the product failing
•users are better able to reach their goals, which results in the business meeting its targets
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