Myths About Usability Testing

It is somewhat strange that while usability testing has been around for over two decades, it is still shrouded by a number of myths and misconceptions. Over the years usability testing, a very important part of software development, has become much simpler, faster and cheaper – there’s really no good reason to NOT do usability testing. In this blog, we try to bust a few myths about usability testing to convert the non-believers into believers.

Myth #1 – Usability testing has to be done by experts:-
While ‘anyone’ can actually do usability testing, not everyone will do it ‘well’. Usability testing requires a fair amount of work, testing expertise and analytical capabilities to observe and understand the demands of the product. That being said you might not need a testing ‘expert’ or someone who is a Human Computer Interaction Designer, anyone with some knowledge of the basics of web and testing can manage usability testing quite well provided the plans are clearly laid out and test strategy clearly defined.

Myth #2 – Usability testing process is time-consuming and very expensive:-
While this was true even a decade ago, with the dawn of the age of high-speed internet and hi definition web cameras and great quality screen recorders, usability study can be conducted at a minuscule expense and also can be done remotely. You do not need an expensively equipped lab and a large number of participants to conduct your usability testing. For many projects, you can easily use remote and unmoderated tests and later collect and analyse the remote usability sessions that in a cost effective and efficient manner negating this myth.
Myth #3 – Usability testing is the same as focus groups
No, it is not! Just because both collect feedback does not mean they are the same as their goals are completely different. While focus groups assess what users ‘say’, usability testing observes how people ‘use’ a product by first assigning tasks to the users and then assessing their performance and user experience.
Myth #4 – Usability Testing can only be done when the design/development is complete
Again, not true! It is essential to gather user feedback and integrate it the development system right from the word ‘go’ so that the design can be changed according to feedback. While some might not want to implement usability testing at all stages of development, it makes sense to get users to test basic items like the menu, wireframes or prototypes in the initial stages of development and then have them test the complete and developed products in the end.
Myth #5 – Usability Testing and User Acceptance testing are the same things
In Usability Testing people who are representative of the users participate in the testing process. Their testing focuses solely on the user experience and has no bearing what-so-ever on whether the user interface meets the business requirement making is absolutely different from User Acceptance Testing.
Myth #6 – Analytic’s trumps Usability testing
Yes, analytics are definitely important since they point out what went wrong with volumes of data and numbers. However, analytics won’t be able to answer the question of ‘why’ something went wrong in the first place – Usability testing reports will. Once you know exactly what the problem is fixing it becomes much easier when compared to sifting through vast volumes of analytical data and drawing, sometimes perhaps one too many, incorrect conclusions.
Myth #7 – You don’t need to test what you redesign
When redesigning a user interface it becomes all the more essential to check the strengths and weaknesses of the current version. Since future designs will be built on this current redesigned version, Usability Testing becomes all the more important.

While Usability Testing is one of the many testing methods to identifying specific problems with an existing design, it is a very important part of the testing process since it provides some very valuable insights in terms of context and product requirements. In today’s environment of agile development, usability testing becomes even more important so that problems can be identified and fixed in time and the time –to-market becomes shorter.

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