What is a Usability Test?

Understanding how your users interact with your product is the key to success.

May 4, 2020 · 6 min read

When starting the development of any product, it is common to have uncertainties about what is best to do so that users have a pleasant experience when using what you are building. For this reason, usability tests enter the field, to help you identify, at each iteration, what needs to be done so that your deliverable is most aligned with the characteristics and needs of your audience.

To prevent you from shooting yourself in the dark, spend a year working and when it comes to launching your product, realize that it was not at all what the user wanted, the best thing to know how the user will receive your product is by doing usability with each new development cycle.

And usability tests are one of the ways that UX Designers and Product Managers use to collect feedback and evaluate how the solution in question is behaving with real users.

A usability test is used to measure, in advance, how the product is behaving and what problems users are facing. So then, correct them to improve the product, more and more. It is done through planned approaches and with the participation of people who represent the profile of the target audience or, in fact, the real users.

The characteristics of the usability test, the forms of application and objectives I will explain in more detail in this post. 😉

Understanding usability testing

When done well and applied, the usability test provides valuable information to the UX Design team and everyone else involved. However, it does not provide ready-made answers. It is necessary to determine a clear objective to be achieved. With evaluation, analysis, interpretation, and studies on user interaction, it is possible to arrive at a model closer to the “ideal”.

However, in the test production phase, it is necessary to identify when it will be applied. The best time to perform the usability test is in the product construction phase, in line with the roadmap and objectives of each sprint. Thus, the observations will lead to improvements in the user experience and avoid new problems and rework, which is the main objective of every product professional, right?

Some other moments can also be important, such as in the phase prior to the interface development, testing a competitor’s product, to identify strengths and weaknesses. When a product has been on the market for a long time, it is also important to perform a usability test in order to determine new updates for the user.

Steve Krug addresses this theme very well in the book “ Simplifying things that seem complicated “, where he talks about “do it yourself”, a simpler way that aims to collect insights more often to achieve, in each cycle, improve what is being delivered.

People involved in the test

Many companies give up on usability testing because they think they are costly and need a lot of people to do it and a megastructure. In fact, it is possible to perform a good usability test even with reduced resources and applying it to a few people.

Experts also recommend that the test steps be done in rounds of five people. With this number, it is already possible to anticipate more than 75% of usability problems. This is because the individual’s behavior towards the product is repeated and so is the information. So, it is best to test with fewer people, make the relevant improvements, and test again. In this way, the product will be improved at a lower cost and with more quality in the details provided by the participants.

Usability test methods

There are several ways to do a usability test, which vary according to the objective and the resources available. Some of them are:


It is conducted by a research specialist, who presents the test to the participants, answers questions before and after the test. It is done in a controlled environment, like a laboratory for this purpose. The results are usually reliable and detailed, as it manages to get into the reasoning behind the user’s behavior.

Yes, it is more costly for the company and, therefore, many end up not doing it.

Not Moderated

Unlike the previous case, it can be done with each participant at home, using the device itself. So the cost of execution is lower. It does not have the presence of a moderator and its own environment. This usability test is cheaper and allows you to test specific questions or measure patterns of behavior.


It can be done using specific applications for this or over the internet, via Skype or other means. His advantage is that people from different geographic areas are able to fulfill the tasks, something that depending on the project’s objective can be interesting, especially at this moment that we live with products that are increasingly global.


This is the test that is undoubtedly the least expensive, known as the guerrilla test, carried out in the field and generally conducted by the designers themselves. It allows the evaluator to perceive and note the user’s perceived behavior when using the product, the participants’ body and facial language, characteristics that say a lot about their experience.

It should be noted that appropriate to the company’s financial reality and product objectives, it is possible to carry out tests with relevant results that will add to the user in the end. Not taking a test is worse than taking a small test.

Notes during testing

The main behaviors that the evaluator needs to observe during the usability test are:

  • Difficulties of use;
  • Difficulty in understanding;
  • If the product presented a problem of fluidity or delay in execution;
  • If the product has adequate communication, it makes sense for the user;
  • among others

Guiding the participant through a pre-test interview is very valuable. After execution, it is also important to ask pertinent questions for notes and considerations.

Results analysis

The results analysis of the usability test must take into account factors such as the time and the steps that the user takes to accomplish a certain task. In addition, it is important to take into account how much of the product was in the user’s memory and his consideration when finalizing, if he would recommend it to a friend, for example, can be another indicator to help in decision making.

The analysis made by the UX Designer or Product Manager must be qualitative, in order to filter the information and not neglect the initial ideas, always thinking about correcting the flaws and refining the project so that, with each delivery, the user experience is the best possible.

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The Startup

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Written by


From Engineer to Developer, to creating amazing Digital Products.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Follow to join The Startup’s +8 million monthly readers & +786K followers.

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