Every digital product reaches a phase when it needs to be tested for usability. One of the biggest pitfalls in usability testing is conducting a study too late in the design process, or worse, after releasing the product to the market. So the earlier you perform the test, the better!

Successful digital products are the result of continuous testing, measuring, and iterating and usability tests are an incredibly important part of this process.

It’s true that every usability study will be different, depending on your specific goals for the test, but one thing that is crucial for all user research is good preparation. Now, let’s see how you can plan a usability test that will deliver the best possible outcome.

1.Set your usability test goals

First thing you need to do is define the scope (what are you testing e.g. specific UI components, navigation, etc.) and the purpose (why are you testing?) for the study.

Usability studies are perfect for collecting qualitative behavioral data from users and for uncovering usability problems, but they’d be useless without goals that are: specific, measurable, and prioritized.

The golden rule for setting goals is to stay focused and don’t commit to too many goals: the more focused your usability tests are, the more relevant the results will be. So make the most of your research by focusing on the goals that will truly make a difference to your product usability.

Example goal: Determine potential navigation errors in the app or difficulty to locate certain functions.

2. Decide on the format & the tool

Usability research can take many forms - it can be moderated or unmoderated, in-person or remote. Depending on your goals and the resources you have on your disposal, you’ll choose one of the methods or conduct a mix-approach usability study.

For example, moderated in-person studies give you a chance to observe the users more closely, interact with them, and ask additional questions or clarifications to uncover deeper insights.

But unmoderated remote studies also have their benefits. They can be a lot cheaper, faster, and enable you to recruit participants who wouldn’t be interested in coming to your office for an in-person testing session.

There are one-stop tools out there, like our own Koncept app, that can help you conduct unmoderated remote usability testing on your app prototype.

3. Recruit the right participants

If your participants aren’t representative of your target audience, or better yet your user persona, then you won’t get the most useful and relevant feedback. If you’re not sure who your ideal users are, our article about creating user personas can help.

You can recruit participants yourself or use a 3rd party service like usertesting.com. If you’re doing the recruitment, you need to consider the following:

  • What specific behaviors are you looking for in your users?
  • What level of tool knowledge do they need to have?
  • What about domain knowledge?

Regardless of the type of users you are teasing, make sure to provide some sort of incentive, like cash or a discount coupon.

P.S. for a typical usability test we generally recommend having 3-5 participants.

4. Create tasks for participants

Usability testing is all about asking users to complete certain tasks while using your product’s interface. The tasks are typically written in the form of a scenario to provide more context for the user and should match the goals of the study.

In the planning phase, you need to define what information you’ll give to the users. Tasks typically consist of the interactions that need to be performed by the test users, for example:

  • Register an account
  • Sign into your account
  • Create a new project

Strong tasks are very specific or ‘closed-end’ and focus on a particular feature or process.

So try to avoid vague instructions and steer the users only towards interactions that are important for your study.

5. Decide on the metrics you need to collect

How will you measure a user’s performance on a particular task?

You need to look at the following usability metrics:

  • Time to completion
  • Steps to completion
  • Success rate
  • Error rate

You’ll also need to take subjective evaluations into considerations, e.g. how easy it was for the user to complete the task, or how satisfied they were with the UI. You can get answers to these questions by running a short survey after the usability session is over.

Takeaways

A successful usability test enables you to improve your digital product iteratively based on user feedback. These 5 steps will help you plan your usability test study to keep yourself on track and make sure that things run smoothly during the study.