Usability testing is a technique used in user–centered interaction design to evaluate a product by testing it on users. This can be seen as an irreplaceable usability practice, since it gives direct input on how real users use the system.
Usability testing focuses on measuring a human-made product's capacity to meet its intended purpose. Products that commonly benefit from usability testing are web sites or web applications, computer interfaces, documents, and devices.
Why Usability Testing?
With greater penetration of technology, and wider spectrum of users, belonging to different age groups, educational, social and financial background, given the number of similar kind of products there has to be some differentiating factor that will incline users towards a particular product. That factor is definitely the ease of use of the product, so to reach out to the end user to increase the volume of sales usability testing has become the key.
The benefit of usability testing is cultural absorption which more specifically implies the user culture. The user culture is what you gain from understanding how users think, walking in their shoes, taking their perspective on issues like:
Features are required to enhance the ability of the user to complete tasks but features that get in the way of users or add extra effort, interpretation or exploration can be a pain to the end user.
The field of Usability Engineering has proven that features if integrated tightly into a user's task flow can be powerful. Features born out of marketing or engineering ideas, not validated with user behaviour, can end up being adoption blockers.
Users are not usually successful at configuring software, websites or devices and the configuration experience can be a major source of frustration. Minimal or auto-configuration leading to "plug and play" user experience would fetch a greater audience.
The 'Average Users' comprise of the general population, non IT background people, literacy challenged people, people in a developing country with no PC exposure, to name a few. The products should cater to the needs of the average audience as they are the masses.
User culture typically runs counter to the development culture. Regular usability testing helps bridge this culture gap. One of the major benefits of usability testing is exposure to user cognition. User cognition is characterized by rules, behaviours, habits, values, beliefs, attitudes and patterns. Usability testing is typically believed to be good on a regular basis because it helps designers and developers vet usability problems.
Organizations believe usability testing is a luxury that requires an expensively equipped lab and takes weeks to conduct. But, the usability testing methodologies have undergone a lot of changes, the norms are far more relaxed and it is easier for organization to arrange for it .The usability tests can now be both fast and relatively cheap.
Someone, Something, Someplace Methodology
All you need for a usability test is someone who is a user of your design (or who acts like a user), something to test (a design in any state of completion), and someplace where the user and the design can meet and you can observe. Someplace can even be remote, depending on the state of the design
Expensive prototypes are no longer required; low-tech paper prototype tests can also bring valuable results. A lot of participants are also not required; even 5 users can be enough to test for specific tasks. The recruitment of the participants can also be done guerrilla-style. For many projects, remote and un-moderated tests can be used. Lots of tools are available to conduct remote tests like, UserVue, GoToMeeting, LiveLook, AdobeConnect, SilverBack, to name a few. Some of the tools that can be used for remote testing are KeyNote WebEffective, UserZoom, TreeJack and Chalkmark.
Getting input from users is great; knowing their requirements is important. Feedback from call centers and people doing support is also helpful in creating and improving designs. The most effective input for informed design decisions is data about the behaviour and performance of people using a design to reach their own goals.
Once we get down to the essential steps in the usability testing process, the mapping to the classic method of usability testing can easily be done
To come out with successful and popular products in the future usability testing of the products has to be increased and with the current change in trends of the usability testing methodologies this should not be a difficult task to achieve.