What Is Usability Testing and Why Is It Important for Web and App Design?


Website and mobile app users want more than just useful content and attractive visuals — they also want an intuitive, responsive, and engaging user experience. And one way organizations can ensure a positive user experience for visitors is through usability testing.

Vincent Huang, Senior User Researcher (UX) at InnoCellence, explains what usability testing is and why it's so important for website and mobile application design:

What Is Usability Testing?

To understand what usability testing is, you must first grasp the concept of what usability is.

According to ISO 9241-11:1998, usability is the extent to which a system, product, or service can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction in a specified context of use.

To explain this concept to a non-technical audience, I like to use the story of how I finally explained it to my mother.

You see, my mother had difficulty grasping the concept of usability every time I tried explaining it to her. But I soon realized what the problem was — I was explaining it to her from my perspective — an IT-centric perspective. And my mom was not from a non-technical background.

I needed to break the concept down to a "language" that my mom could understand. That's when I finally succeeded.

"Mom, think of usability as an attribute of a product and Usability Testing as the evaluation and assessment of that attribute. It's like your cooking — the fragrant aroma of a dish is an attribute of delicious food. And the "usability testing" of the dish is how well diners respond to that aroma — do they find it appetizing or too strong?"

In the context of pharma website and mobile app development, usability testing enables our User Research Team to evaluate concepts, user flows, wireframes, prototypes, and systems to verify whether our design choices are delivering a high-quality user experience.

Usability testing involves the real-world application of system tasks by participants who share characteristics similar to the target user(s). So whenever there are usability-related issues in participants' behavior, they can be reported to the design and development team for further improvement.

Why Is Usability Testing Important?

When it comes website and app design and development — there's nothing worse than delivering a subpar product that users find frustrating or difficult to use. Because poor usability drives away visitors, reduces retention rates, and hurts brand perception.

Fortunately, the biggest benefit of usability testing is that it allows you to identify and correct problems within your websites and apps before users ever encounter them — leading to a better overall user experience.

In addition to ensuring a high-quality user experience, here are some other key reasons why usability testing is so important:

  • Guides Team Alignment: Everyone has ideas about what the user "wants." And while pharma IT and digital agency creative teams may have different opinions, usability testing can help confirm which ideas are embraced by users, enabling everyone to gain alignment on what's best for users.

  • Optimizes Operational Expenses: By applying usability testing early in a project to verify which design decisions provide the best user experience, it's possible to eliminate additional late phase design and coding work.

  • Improves Brand Perception: By eliminating any potential usability issues, it's possible to increase user satisfaction with the brand's websites and apps, leading to improvement in brand perception and user retention for apps.

What Types of Usability Testing Are There?

When it comes to usability testing, there are two primary types of testing worth understanding:

  • Formative: focuses on diagnosing and fixing problems while a product is in development — this type of usability testing is typically repeated during development to optimize usability.

  • Summative: focuses on establishing a metric baseline for validating that the product meets user requirements after completion — this type of usability testing generally requires larger numbers of participants for greater statistical validity.

Does Your Organization Conduct Usability Testing?

As a User Researcher, it's my job to oversee the usability testing conducted on our clients' websites and apps. And I can tell you from experience that it has saved our clients countless hours of design and development time, enabling them to provide systems that deliver a vastly improved user experience.

For multinationals that are continuously in the process of updating and developing new websites and apps across markets, investing in an innovation lab or partnering with an agency that operates one is an ideal way to ensure that they have the talent and resources needed to deliver a good, consistent user experience across digital systems.

How has usability testing impacted the performance of your organization's websites and apps? Share your experience with us by commenting below!

Image Credit: Pixabay