Usability testing is all about getting real people to interact with a website, app, or other product you've built and observing their behavior and reactions to it. Whether you start small by watching session recordings or go all out and rent a lab with eye-tracking equipment, usability testing is a necessary step to make sure you build an effective, efficient, and enjoyable experience for your users.
We start this guide with an introduction to what is (and isn’t) usability testing; the following chapters cover different testing methods, the usability questions they can help you answer, how to run a usability testing session, how to analyze and evaluate your testing results. Finally, we wrap up with 12 checklists and templates to help you run efficient usability sessions.
Usability testing is a method of testing the functionality of a website, app, or other digital product by observing real users as they attempt to complete tasks on it. The goal is to reveal areas of confusion and uncover opportunities to improve the overall user experience.
(Note: if all testing activities take place on a website, the terms 'usability testing' and 'website usability testing' can be used interchangeably—which is what we're going to do throughout the rest of this page.)
Usability testing is done by real-life users, who are likely to reveal issues that people familiar with a website can no longer identify—very often, in-depth knowledge can blind designers, marketers, and product owners to a website's usability issues.
Bringing in new users to test your site and/or observing how real people are already using it are effective ways to determine whether your visitors:
Your website can benefit from usability testing no matter where it is in the development process, from prototyping all the way to the finished product. You can also continue to test the user experience as you iterate and improve your product over time.
Employing tests with real users helps you:
There are several UX tools that help improve the customer experience, but don't really qualify as 'user testing tools' because they don't explicitly replicate the experience of real users testing a website for functionality:
The difference between usability testing and user testing is confusing to most developers, project managers, and even UX designers.
Some people believe user testing is the process of validating the demand for a product, whereas usability testing determines if end-users can or cannot do what they need to do on an existing prototype. In this scenario, user testing comes before product creation, while usability testing comes later.
Others define user testing as any testing by users, an umbrella that would include usability testing but not allow the two terms to be used interchangeably.
🔥 Our stance? Regardless of what you want to call it, watching real people use your website and learning from their mistakes is a crucial part of a product review process.
Your website's user interface should be straightforward and easy to use, and usability testing is an essential step in getting there. But to get the most actionable results, testing must be done correctly—you will want to reproduce normal use conditions exactly.
One of the easiest ways to get started with usability testing is through session recordings. Observing how visitors navigate your website can help you create the best user experience possible.
A breakdown of the main usability testing methods (includes lab testing, session recordings, card sorting) and when/why you should use them.
Four veteran usability testers discuss a 5-step process to use for running moderated usability testing.
A straightforward 5-step process to help you evaluate the results of your usability testing session.