Usability testing methods
Now that you understand the different ways you can conduct usability testing, let’s explore some of the different testing methods you can use to gain useful insights. With so many usability testing methods to choose from, how can you decide the most suitable approach for your research study? In this chapter, we explore a range of methods that provide valuable insights into the user experience. We also share examples of each method to better understand how they apply in different settings. By understanding the strengths and applications of these usability testing methods, you’ll be able to make informed decisions to improve the user experience of your product.
Overview of usability testing methods
Suitable use cases
Guerilla usability testing
Informal, ad-hoc testing in public spaces for quick feedback.
- Quick feedback on a product or design - Identifying major usability issues early - Gathering feedback from a diverse range of participants
Five second testing
Measures first impressions of a design in just five seconds.
- Testing visual appeal and understanding of design at a glance - Identifying design flaws early - Gathering quick feedback on multiple design concepts
First click testing
Observes the first action users take to complete a task.
- Identifying user confusion - Understanding user expectations for interface elements - Ensuring users can quickly achieve their goals
Measures user preferences for different design options.
- Designing new products or redesigning existing ones - Comparing your product to competitors - Testing marketing assets like ads or product descriptions
Tests preliminary versions of a product for usability.
- Identifying design flaws - Refining usability and user experience - Testing assumptions about user interactions
Guerrilla usability testing (also known as hallway testing) involves testing a product or website in an informal and ad-hoc way, often in a public space. The goal is to gather quick and inexpensive feedback from real users to identify usability issues and make product improvements.
Guerrilla testing involves approaching people in public places and asking them to try out your product or website. You observe the user as they interact with the product, ask them questions about their experience, and take notes on any issues they encounter. You might also offer a small token of thanks.
Because it’s done in an informal setting, guerrilla usability testing is quick and affordable. However, it might not provide as many in-depth insights as other types of usability testing, and the sample of users tested may not be representative of your target audience.
When would you use guerrilla usability testing?
Guerrilla usability testing is a quick and inexpensive method of testing the usability of a product or service. It’s good for:
Getting quick feedback on a product or design: This can be helpful for startups or small businesses with limited resources.
Identifying major usability issues early in the design process: Guerrilla testing can provide insights into how real users interact with your product in a natural environment. It can also be useful for testing assumptions about user behavior and identifying needs you haven’t considered previously.
Gathering feedback from a diverse range of participants: Because participants are approached in a public setting, this could include people who may not typically be recruited for a usability test. This can provide valuable insights into how different segments of an audience interact with your product or service.
What’s an example of guerrilla usability testing?
Say you’re developing a new mobile app for booking restaurant reservations. You want to see how easy it is for users to navigate through the app, find a restaurant, and make a reservation. You could conduct guerrilla testing by heading to a local coffee shop and asking people passing by if they have a few minutes to test the app prototype, and offer a small incentive to encourage participation, like a gift card or a free coffee.
During the test, you could ask participants to perform specific tasks, like finding a restaurant near them, checking availability for a certain date and time, and completing the reservation process. Observe the participants using the app, take notes, and ask follow-up questions to gather feedback on their experience.
After testing is complete, analyze the results to identify any usability issues or areas for improvement in the app. This feedback could help your team make crucial changes before launching to the public, which could ultimately lead to a better user experience and increased app usage.
Five second testing measures a user’s first impression of a design by showing it for only five seconds. The user is asked to remember as much detail as possible and provide feedback on what they recall.
Five second testing is typically used to test the visual appeal of a design, and to get a quick understanding of whether users can understand the purpose of the design at a glance. This method can help identify design flaws early in the product development process, and can be a cost-effective way to gather quick feedback on multiple design concepts.
When would you use five second testing?
Five second testing is a quick, easy, and low-cost way of getting feedback. It’s particularly useful for:
Testing first impressions: Test your design, landing page, or interface to see whether it’s clear and engaging, and whether users understand its purpose.
Testing the effectiveness of designs and messaging: Five second testing can be useful for testing how effective your logos, headlines, calls to action, slogans, and other important design elements are in grabbing your users’ attention.
Identifying potential areas of confusion or frustration: If users aren’t able to quickly identify the purpose or message of the design, it can highlight confusing or frustrating areas to improve.
What’s an example of five second testing?
Imagine you’re designing a new ecommerce website and want to know if your product pages are clear and engaging enough to capture the attention of your users within the first few seconds.
Create a five second test using Lyssna and show participants a screenshot of one of your product pages. After they’ve viewed the page for five seconds, ask them a series of questions to evaluate their initial impressions, such as:
What do you remember about the page?
What do you think this page is selling?
Would you be interested in buying this product based on the page you just saw?
Their answers could give you valuable insights into how effective the page is at communicating its key selling points and engaging users quickly.
Suggested templates for five second testing:
First click testing measures how easy it is for users to navigate a website or app by observing the first action they take to complete a task. It focuses on the first click, or tap, a user makes on an interface.
During first click testing, users are asked to perform a specific task on a website or app and their actions are tracked to see where they click first. This can help identify any areas of confusion or difficulty in the navigation and inform design improvements.
First click testing can be conducted in both moderated and unmoderated formats and can be especially useful for evaluating the effectiveness of navigation labels and organization. It can also be used in combination with other usability testing methods, like navigation testing, to provide a more comprehensive evaluation of the usability of a website or app.
When would you use first click testing?
First-click testing is useful for:
Identifying user confusion: First click testing can help identify areas of difficulty in the navigation by pinpointing where users are clicking first.
Identifying user expectations: First click testing gives you information about user expectations, particularly for common interface elements such as menus, buttons, and form elements.
Focusing on user goals: First click testing helps to ensure that users can easily and quickly achieve their goals when using a website or app.
What’s an example of first click testing?
Let's say your SaaS company is developing a new feature for its project management tool. One of its core functionalities is being able to create a new project at the click of a button.
You could conduct a first click test to see whether the “create new project” button is clear to users by giving a specific task, such as “Where would you go to create a new project?”.
If you’re testing in Lyssna, you could recruit test participants from our panel, targeting specific demographics. Next, analyze the data to see how many users were able to successfully create a new project with their first click, and identify any patterns or issues in the navigation that led to confusion or errors. This information could then be used to make changes and improvements to the product before its official launch.
Suggested templates for first click testing:
Preference testing is used to measure a user’s subjective preferences for different design options. It involves presenting users with two or more variations of a design element, such as color schemes or button layouts, and asking them to choose which one they prefer.
The results of preference testing can provide valuable insights into which design choices are most appealing to your users, which can help guide the design process.
When would you use preference testing?
Preference testing is useful when you’re:
Designing a new product or redesigning an existing product: Preference testing can help identify which design or feature is more appealing. If you’re considering changing the design or features of an existing product, it’s also a helpful way to understand which changes are preferred by your target audience.
Testing marketing assets: Preference testing can also be used to test different marketing assets, such as ads or product descriptions, to identify which are the most appealing to your target audience.
What’s an example of preference testing?
Say your company is updating its CRM software subscription plans and you want to test four potential sign-up page options to see which one users prefer. You could set up a preference test in Lyssna with the four sign-up page designs.
Next, you have the choice of recruiting participants from a participant panel or your existing customer base (or both, to compare the findings) and ask them to choose which design they prefer. It’s important to ask participants to explain why they prefer one design over the others, as this gives you qualitative feedback that can be used to refine the design further.
After collecting enough responses, you could review the results to determine which design is preferred overall and which specific design elements are most liked or disliked. You can then use this information to make an informed decision about which design to implement for the new sign-up page.
Suggested templates for preference testing:
Prototype testing involves testing a preliminary version of your product to collect feedback about usability issues. You can begin testing low-fi prototypes early and then mid- and high-fidelity prototypes iteratively throughout the entire design process.
The goal of prototype testing is to identify design or functionality issues, as well as to gather user feedback to improve the usability and user experience of your product. By testing your prototypes, you can identify potential problems early and make adjustments before investing more time and resources in building the final product.
When would you use prototype testing?
Prototype testing can help you with:
Identifying design flaws: By testing a prototype, you can find out early whether the design is or isn’t working. This can help to identify issues that need to be addressed before the final product is released.
Refining usability: You can test your working prototypes to evaluate the usability of a product in a realistic environment. This can help you refine the user experience and make it more intuitive and user-friendly.
Testing assumptions: Prototypes allow you to test assumptions about how users will interact with your product. This can help to validate assumptions and identify areas where further research or design work is needed.
What’s an example of prototype testing?
Imagine you work at a media company that’s developing a new podcast streaming service. Your team has created a Figma prototype that includes a feature for creating custom playlists. You could import this into Lyssna to test whether users understand how to use the feature and whether it meets their needs.
Recruit participants from your target audience and ask them to perform tasks such as creating a custom playlist, adding and removing podcasts, and downloading episodes. Observe how users interact with the prototype and ask for feedback on their experience.
Based on the results of the prototype test, you can make adjustments to the feature before launching the final product, helping to ensure that it’s user-friendly and meets the needs of your audience.
Suggested templates for prototype testing:
Read more: Want to learn more about the product development process and how usability testing fits in? Check out these articles and guides:
Choosing the right usability testing methods
In this chapter, we’ve delved into a variety of usability testing methods that offer unique insights into user experiences.
Here are the key takeaways from this chapter:
Guerrilla usability testing: Quick and cost-effective, guerrilla testing is excellent for gathering rapid feedback and identifying major usability issues early.
Five second testing: Ideal for assessing first impressions, this method helps evaluate the clarity and engagement of designs and messaging.
First click testing: Use this to pinpoint user confusion, understand expectations, and ensure users can achieve their goals quickly.
Preference testing: When subjective design preferences matter, preference testing helps identify which design choices are most appealing to your users.
Prototype testing: Test early versions of your product to detect design flaws, refine usability, and validate assumptions, saving time and resources in the long run.
By understanding the strengths and applications of these methods, you'll be well-equipped to make informed decisions that enhance your product's user experience.