Consider this: You feel that you have the perfect idea for an app. You’ve done the research and found the gap in the market. All signs point to the app being a hit, a chart topper merely days after it’s published to app marketplaces. However, it doesn’t end up being that way, and chances are that you might have missed one crucial step.

Marketing professionals have long used focus groups to test out their theories before spending millions of dollars on actual campaigns. You need to take a somewhat similar approach to your apps. It’s important to ensure that users can easily find their way around the app and that everything works before you pour resources into a full-scale launch.

What is usability testing?

This is precisely what usability testing is for. It can be described fairly simply. Usability testing is the process by which it can be found out just how easy an app is to use. The process requires that the app be tested with real users, so that the feedback that's received is indicative of how general users might feel once it's released to the public.

As the word suggests, the core idea here is to measure just how "usable" the app really is. It has to be looked at from different angles. For example, is it easy for users to access all the features? Is it clear enough just what the app's capabilities are? Is the user experience intuitive? etc.

Usability testing involves seeding the app or software to a select group of end users. They’re then observed as they put the product through its paces and if any usability defects are discovered, they're reported to the development team that can fix them before the full launch.

What is it used for?

The primary purpose of usability testing is to figure out if any defects have been overlooked. It's carried out with a group of users that weren't involved in the testing before they're completely neutral to the product, in that they don't have any attachment of any kind with it. Thus the feedback that they provide can be entirely unbiased.

Since they're real users, if they find some elements of the user experience confusing or face difficulties in extracting the most out of the app's features, the developers can quickly identify pain points that general users would face and take measures to address them.

Usability testing can thus be used to understand if the software or app works as it's supposed to and users don't get "lost" or confused when using it, that it's all very functionally efficient and doesn't seem to have any bugs or issues.

Types of usability testing

There are several different types of usability testing and they can be utilized depending on what the end goal is. The insights gathered from testing can be used to design the user flows or the visual hierarchy that improves the overall user experience.

Comparative usability testing

In a comparative usability test, the end users are required to choose the best of two or more solutions. It’s primarily carried out to check the effectiveness of a product against that of its competitors, to find out if there are any shortcomings and then addressing them if need be.

For an app, this would involve comparing the different user interfaces with each other, and observing metrics such as error rates, task completion and time spent on each task. Generally, participants in a comparative usability test would provide more useful feedback. They see two or more ways of doing the same thing which makes it easier for them to compare between the two, as opposed to having just a singular experience.

Explorative usability testing

Explorative usability testing is more open-ended. Unlike comparative testing, participants are encouraged to think aloud. They are asked to give their opinions and explain just how they feel about a particular design or user flow.

This is generally carried out during the initial stages of development in order to judge how end users might react to the design. Getting these results early on in the development stage helps create a fully informed process with the exact needs of your target audience in mind.

The feedback it can surface includes what expectations the users might develop from the product, if they're able to distinguish between different elements and features, and if they can appreciate the inherent value of the software or app's functionality.

Usability evaluations

Whether it's an app or software, it needs to be genuinely useful for its audience, otherwise the project won't turn out to be a success. That's why the purpose of usability evaluation is best described as a measure of the product's ability to be useful to the people that are going to be using it.

The entire focus of this exercise is to figure out just how well the users can use the app to do what they want to do with it. It's also a measure of their satisfaction with the process of achieving those goals. Ultimately, usability evaluations can help you figure out whether or not the app will be worth it for its target market.

Pros to Usability Testing

Usability testing can save you a lot of time and money. The insights that the users provide can be used to make changes that improve the end result. Without it, you could end up launching an app that’s not intuitive at all and is not functionally robust either.

People who are closely involved with the development of a product can often overlook pain points that the average user might experience, largely because of their advanced knowledge of the product. Usability testing offers that "fresh pair of eyes" perspective and helps you get an unbiased view of your product.

If you want your software and app to be successful, you'd want it to meet the expectations of its users. Testing its usability will ensure that all of the features and functions work just as they were intended to do. This way, when customers buy it, they don't feel that they paid for something that over-promised and under-delivered.

Cons to Usability Testing

If you outsource the job to an inexperienced service provider, chances are that the audience they end up selecting for the usability testing of your product isn't suited to it at all. If they have not used similar products in the past or are just not interested in what your product offers, then any data taken from those tests would likely not be useful.

Usability testing is much more than filling a room with people and handing out smartphones with your app on it. Depending on just how accurate you want the data to be, you may be required to pay for costly specialized equipment. This is normally done for measuring really precise data points like eye movement, frustration and engagement levels, etc.

There could also be confidentiality issues. You're essentially sharing an idea that you spent months developing with a group of strangers. There's no stopping anyone from simply ripping it off, or leaking information to your competitors even if strict controls are placed during the test. They can always memorize something and reveal it later on.

Take advantage of usability testing in your custom app development.

The advantages of usability testing outweigh any potential drawbacks, be it from a confidentiality or a cost standpoint. That’s why it still remains a highly important process to this day, with companies investing significant amounts of time and resources into usability testing of their products.

The team at Zibtek has been designing great mobile apps for more than a decade. They've handled all sorts of projects from ERP-integrated mobile experiences to education apps and even mobile games. Their developers are proficient in iOS, Android, React native, Phonegap and hybrid development, and are very well equipped to handle the entire project lifecycle.

Not only do they help with the development process, they can also deploy the app to the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, in addition to providing support and maintenance services after the app has been released.

They have long been a trusted service provider for Fortune 500s and startups alike. With offices in Salt Lake City and a global pool of talented developers all managed from the United States, Zibtek can help take your project from concept to reality.

Zibtek understands that the days of designing in a vacuum are long gone. It's important to evaluate user feedback throughout the development process so that the end product is something that best meets the users' expectations.

It has experienced UI and UX experts on hand to perform any and all kinds of usability testing on your app, allowing you to monitor the insights in real-time as they do all the work and you get to focus on the big picture stuff.

Intrigued? Contact the team at Zibtek today to find out more about how they can help you leverage usability testing to create a quality product for your customers.