Why You Absolutely Need UX Testing and How to Do It Right
Software testing has undisputedly become a vital part of the software industry. But with so many different types of testing, naming conventions, and trends it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies and individuals to choose wisely and apply the appropriate testing that will improve the quality of the product the most, given the available resources and investments. However, in today’s ever-changing digital world user experience (UX) has become a decisive factor in the success or failure of software applications. Having an intuitive and fluid user experience is no longer just an enhancement “option”, it is an essential prerequisite for any successful product or service. So, how do we achieve that?
Well, that is where UX Testing services come into play as one of the most efficient ways of integrating and maintaining a user-friendly design. In this article, we will dive deep into the reasons why UX Testing is a necessity in software development, and navigate through different UX testing methodologies and UX testing tools and their common features. Along the way, we will also provide guides on how to conduct impactful UX testing.
Why is UX testing an essential component of the software development process?
Having a functional and visually appealing software application is no longer enough. Users (or potential clients) of the application in most cases will move on to the next competitor site or search result if they can’t intuitively understand your application or even if your application does not catch their attention long enough to showcase your main features or services, products, etc. One might have this stunning service or feature within their application that looks and functions as expected but what would be the benefit of that if users just leave before they get to the point where this amazing feature is presented to them or even if they don’t even understand right away how to get or open this service/feature?
This is where UX Testing saves the day, or more specifically, saves the money spent on marketing from going down the drain hose. UX Testing helps in the assessment of the user-friendliness of a product, detects bottlenecks, points or steps where users struggle, possible design improvements, and much more. A client of ours had this great online editor feature that allowed users to design the products they wanted to buy. After careful investigation, an assumption was made by our UX/UI testing specialists that some users might not realize how to open the editor. Using one of the UX testing tools, described in the sections below, screen recordings of user sessions were obtained and this assumption was proven to be true. Around 30% of the users in the sample size did not realize that there was an online editor they could open in front of them!
UX testing methods
There are many UX testing methods but here are some widely used and well-known methods that help gather insights, detect issues, and make improvement decisions:
- Guerilla testing - getting feedback from random participants by carrying out usability tests in public spaces. Usually, it takes place early in product development on prototypes or product versions that are still not commercially available.
- Prototype Testing - evaluating dynamic design prototypes of a product or feature before development starts by having real users test the prototypes. Helps validate the design decisions and detect problems early before any code is written. The prototypes are usually made in some design tool like Figma and can be low-fidelity, mid-fidelity, or high-fidelity mock-ups. The test early and often QA principle should be applied by starting tests early on low-fidelity prototypes, that can be digital wireframes or paper sketches, and keep testing often as the design progresses to high fidelity prototype that is very similar to the finished product. Different issues can be found during each stage, for example, navigation problems on low-fidelity prototypes up to UI problems like fonts and colors or usability issues on the high-fidelity prototype. Prototype testing is also often used for A/B testing, it is the perfect time to test where to place that new feature or how many steps should be involved, etc.
- A/B testing - maybe the best definition for this UX method is the one by Nick de Voli from his book “User Experience Foundations”: “ A technique used to compare two alternative designs of a live interactive system with a large number of users”. Or to simplify verifying which design alternative for the same feature or functionality would be better in case that is not obvious. Is it better to place that CTA left or right? Should there be a 3-step or 4-step checkout process? A/B testing is there to clear such doubts and verify which alternative is better.
- Eye-tracking - special technology used to get information on where the user's focus is. Can serve as a foundation for checking the effectiveness of the design layout or as a guide for designing or redesigning products or features.
- Card Sorting - asking users to group content items in categories that make sense to them. Helps designers in organizing information, labeling content and structuring navigation as they get insight using this technique into how users mentally organize information and content.
- Session recording - This technique involves recording the user sessions in order to gather insight from a large number of your actual users or potential clients. So, instead of guessing or assuming system usability and fluidity of user journeys, this method allows us to detect all sorts of usability problems in a powerful and accurate way. Not only that, as you get to see sessions from diverse audiences some unexpected use cases may be unearthed showing undetected functional bugs that made their way to the live product. Filterings based on session length, number of pages visited, the page where the user landed and where they left, country of residence, browser, operating system, clicks/taps, etc. are also available. And these filtering options can help quickly narrow down the number of recordings to the needs. For example, only import recordings where “rage clicks/taps” happened which is the event when the user repeatedly clicks/taps on some design element expecting it to be interactable. Anyone can realize without spending much time explaining that this is a major RED flag for your system and needs to be addressed as soon as possible before users start switching to that competitor with better UX.
- Usability testing - as probably one of the most popular UX research methods the term usability testing is often used interchangeably with UX testing which is not correct. Usability testing is a part of UX testing. According to ISO 9241-210 standard usability is the extent to which an interactive system is effective, efficient, and satisfying to use in a specified context of use. UX testing covers the entire user experience, how users feel about the product, how they expect the product to behave before, during and after use and even how users feel about the company that owns the product. Not just about enhancing the product/service so that it works efficiently, effectively, and with user satisfaction while being used. But more about the differences between usability testing and UX testing can be found in this great article The Importance and Key Differences of Usability, User Experience and Accessibility Testing. Implementing usability testing reveals usability problems as well as evaluates user satisfaction and task completion. There are two approaches, depending if the users are testing the product in person or remotely:
- In-person usability testing - Usually conducted in a lab or an office environment and guided by a moderator who gives instructions, answers participant's questions, and asks follow-up questions. Full control over the testing environment is achieved but it is more costly because of the equipment, setup, accommodation, and travel expenses for the participants.
- Remote usability testing - Preferred choice if more realistic real-life situations are needed where users can use their own devices. At the same time, it is less expensive and more participants are available as there is no need for travel and there is better flexibility for the scheduling and the availability of space and equipment. There are challenges in controlling the testing environment and collecting some more specific in-depth test data that are otherwise easier to collect conducting in-person testing, like for example tracking of eye movement.
- Interviews - Versatile and powerful UX research method used to collect firsthand opinions, insights, and feedback from users and stakeholders in one-on-one or group conversations. These can uncover qualitative data and a better understanding of user needs and behavior ultimately leading to improved user-centered design approaches
- Surveys and Questionnaires - a way to gather data about users’ expectations and opinions about the product, service, or feature, find out if they have any struggles, as well as ask them to rate their experience. This data is then used to make improvements.
- Accessibility testing - used to evaluate if the product or service can be used by people with various disabilities. This is done with the help of accessibility guidelines, most notably the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) which is part of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium)’s WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative). There are success criteria for each guideline with 3 levels of conformance, starting from A as the lowest to AAA as the highest level of conformance. Besides the obvious benefits(inclusivity, legal compliance, improved reputation, increased user base, etc.) of this type of testing, it is important to note that this testing often improves usability in general. This is of course a very important method and authorities are recognizing these standards and forcing their implementation by various regulatory guidelines. There is much to be discussed about this topic, like testing the use of assistive technologies but more about that can be found in our blog post 5 Reasons You Need Accessibility Testing Now.
UX testing tools
- Design and Prototyping tools (Figma, Adobe XD) - Start off with design and prototype tools which are not dedicated UX testing tools but are worth mentioning as UX testing often starts on the very first prototypes of the product. The prototypes created in these tools are interactive and simulate the real product. Links can be shared with other stakeholders so that they can leave feedback but also with users for usability testing and can be integrated with user testing platforms for conducting usability testing. We already mentioned some of the benefits of conducting testing on such prototypes in the previous section
- UserTesting - This platform offers usability testing and the option to gather feedback from targeted audiences. It lets you create tasks for users, and observe their interactions with your product while they share their real-time feedback by speaking their thoughts.
- Optimal Workshop - This tool provides visualization of how users navigate through your design. You can also utilize the card sorting method to learn how people conceptualize and group terms, and ideas that can help you improve your structure and navigation.
- Hotjar - This multitool provides session recordings along with various heat maps and visual representations of the user’s interaction with the product. That can help identify where users spent most of their time, whether they struggled to find something or were expecting an element to be interactive at which point they left etc. It also utilizes user surveys. While Hotjar is one of the most well-known and used user experience tools, there are alternatives like Crazy Egg, Mouseflow, Inspectlet, FullStory, etc. offering similar services.
Often using only one of these tools is not enough and combining different tools is necessary for complete UX research.
Common features of the most popular tools
- Integration with Design and Prototyping tools - as already mentioned, some of these tools offer integration with design and prototyping tools utilizing interactive prototypes for usability testing.
- User Testing and Feedback - Setting up usability tests, tasks, and test scenarios. Remote usability testing with users with various backgrounds. Surveys, and rating scales for collecting feedback from actual users in real-time.
- Heatmaps and Visualizations - Heatmaps are visualizations showing how users engage with the UI elements, how far they scroll, in which areas they spend most of their time etc. There are different types of heatmaps like click, scroll, mouse movement, and more complex interactive heatmaps that combine different types into one to create a fuller picture of user engagement.
- Session Recordings - user session recordings that can be played back to observe user interactions and behavior. While playing these recordings there are various graphs and data that point to specific events that happened during the session, like inactivity, mouse clicks, etc.
- Filtering User Data - These tools have the ability to filter data collected from users (for example the user session recordings). For example, filter only recordings where users filled in some input fields, visited a certain page or screen, or certain user groups by location or demographic factors.
- User Data Analysis - The collected user data is also usually represented as easy-to-understand dashboards, graphs, and other visualizations.
- A/B testing - These tools support the A/B testing method for comparing different features or user flow design alternatives
Enduring success, loyal satisfied users, and returning customers that will leave great reviews for one’s product are usually common goals for everyone looking to compete on the global digital playground. That totally correlates to providing satisfying user experiences. By implementing effective UX testing methods and utilizing UX tools you get clear insights into how users feel and behave while using your product, identify where the struggle points are, and make informed decisions for your design or redesign without assumptions. Your team will see and shape the product through the eyes of the users paving the way to not just meet but exceed expectations.
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