What is usability?
Usability is part of the broad term ‘user experience’. Usability refers to how easy it is for the user to accomplish their goal using your product or service.
When you do usability testing you are not testing a user, but the usability of your product or service. You are testing the design’s features in the user’s context. That is, what the user wants to do with the product, in their environment and how easy it is to access or use.
A usable design has three main outcomes. It should be easy for the user to:
- become familiar with, and be able to use the product or service during their first contact
- achieve their goal through using the product or service
- recall the user interface and how to use it on later visits.
Use prototypes to test different designs and solutions and measure their usability as you go. This helps you avoid building an entire product or service and then find it doesn’t work and no one will use it.
You can create a low-fidelity prototype to show to users and get instant feedback. For example, start with a rough sketch or paper prototype that doesn’t need too much effort to create.
Learn more about prototyping.
Start usability testing early in the design process and keep testing every step of the way.
In a usability testing session, the facilitator usually asks each participant to perform tasks using one or more specific interfaces. While the participant completes each task, observe their behaviour and listen for feedback.
This will help you identify problems in the design of the product or service, uncover opportunities to improve and learn about the target user’s behaviour.
- test your prototype with actual users. Before you do this, you need to know who your target audience is and their context when they interact with your product or service.
- find out if the design functions as it should and if the user can do what they need to do. It’s better to use black and white prototypes so that users focus on how the product functions rather than on colour.
- use the insights from usability research to add features and delete things that don’t work. Refine your design to reduce friction and increase success for users.
- change your design as needed to address any issues revealed in usability testing.
You need to recruit a range of participant user types or groups to test your product. If you have the time and budget, and you identify many user groups, you should do research with each user group separately.
Always make sure you consider accessibility and inclusivity. Consider how users with disabilities or from disadvantaged groups would encounter your design.