Usability Testing, Part 3: Testers and Tools

One person studying a group of four diverse people, trying to make a decision.
Pick your testers carefully.

This is the third and final post in a 3-part series on developing, executing, and analyzing your site’s usability. The first two parts focused on preparing for usability testing, and the pieces that make a usability testing plan. In this final installment, we’ll discuss what makes a good tester and some tools you can use to conduct your testing.

Picking Your Testers

We are all created equally! Except when it comes to being an ideal usability-testing participant.

No two testers are created equal, and they shouldn’t be. When recruiting testers, whether for a website or a mobile application, you want them to represent the target demographic of your users. Ask yourself:

  • What type of person will primarily use the website or app?
  • What’s their economic background?
  • Are they students or well-established in their careers?
  • Will your users be tech savvy or tech novices?

You don’t want to select testers with an advanced developer background to test a site intended for school children. Understanding who you’re building your website or app for will help you better identify great testers.

How Many Testers Should I Get?

When it comes to the number of testers you need, less is more. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, the leader in user experience research, you only ever need up to 5 testers. A single user will reveal most of the insight into the usability of the design. Once you get to the second user, you’ll notice many of their usability habits will fall in line with the first tester.

You’ll get valuable results with meaningful test scenarios and a small sample of the right participants. Not to mention, you’ll save time and resources in the end.

Selecting the Right Usability Testing Tools

There are hundreds of tools on the market to assist with usability testing, and it can seem daunting to decide what to use. And, that’s not just for software tools. There are also physical tools, like cameras and monitors, which can provide much needed insight into how users interact with your product.

When selecting tools, think about:

  • The type of product being tested
    Is it a website or a mobile app? You could consider using screen-recording software or a camera to capture where a user taps on a smartphone or touch-screen device.
  • The location where you will conduct the testing
    Your testing location should be able to accommodate the tools you select, i.e. multiple power sources, surfaces to set up computers or monitors, etc.
  • The physical and cognitive capabilities of your testers
    Is the product being tested for individuals with disabilities? Assistive technology, in addition to your testing tools, might be necessary.
  • How you will report the results
    If your results require you to have video, then you’ll need a camera or screen recording software to record the tester’s actions.

Our team used a really helpful tool to conduct usability testing of a mobile app. It’s a device that magnetically fastens to a smartphone and positions a small camera above the phone to record the point of view of the user. Observers can see what the tester sees, and where they’re tapping on the smartphone. It was helpful to see exactly how the testers completed each of the test scenarios.

Selecting the right tools for your testing scenarios is key, but luckily, there are so many to choose from! Take time to identify your needs and requirements. It will help you narrow down your options.

Thanks for sticking with me for this series and I hope that your found it useful for your next testing scenario. Happy testing!

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