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usability testing for web and mobile

Tests Go First. Usability Testing in Design.

A tech guru, Steve Jobs, once said: “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” Unfortunately, some people still think that designers’ job ends with aesthetic aspects of a product. Nevertheless, UX design depends on several key factors including usability, utility, desirability, attractiveness. Each facet plays its role for a sufficient product, so a creative team needs to make sure all them are done right by conducting tests. Today’s article is devoted to the peculiarities of usability testing and various methods helping to discern usability problems.

 

Why does usability matter?

 

Before we go to the essence of usability testing, let’s find out what usability means and why it is called a core part of effective UX. Nielsen Norman Group defines usability as a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The level of usability depends on five aspects: learnability, satisfaction, efficiency, memorability, and errors. Learnability stands for how easy users can attain tasks during the first usage and satisfaction is how pleasant the usage process is. Efficiency is determined by users’ ability to accomplish a task quickly while memorability depends on time which people need to re-establish their proficiency after a period of not using a product. And finally, designers track the number of errors users make and how easily they can learn from these mistakes.

 

When all these factors are considered, digital products provide a high level of usability which means people can easily and effectively use them. But why expert designers are so concerned about a single aspect of UX? Isn’t it more important what services and solutions apps and websites provide? Obviously, the features make a product valuable for people. However, if users can’t figure out how to use an application, it brings zero profit to them. Even the most beautiful interface can’t guarantee a success without a clean functionality system. That’s why one of the core stages of UX building is usability testing.

 

information architecture for designers tubik

 

What’s usability testing?

 

Usability testing is a technique helping to evaluate a product by testing it on potential users. This way designers are able to see if a website or an app is usable enough as well as distinguish possible problems in UX. Usability testing is usually conducted at the UX building stage before a project goes to the development team. It allows changing inefficient solutions easier rather than in a complete product.

 

Moreover, usability testing is a good way to dive deeper into users needs and preferences by watching their reactions while they use a product. Designers can collect the essential information needed for the creation of the effective user-centered design. Also, the gathered information can be used not only for UX design but at the other stages of product development.

 

Types of usability testing methods

 

To reach the high effectiveness of usability testing and gain the expected profit, designers apply various methods which can be categorized into three main groups: explorative, assessment, and comparative.

 

Explorative methods are used at the earliest stages of UX. Designers present wireframes of a product to users and watch their reactions. Explorative methods aim at discovering how people comprehend a concept of a product and how their mental processes work while they use a certain product.

 

Assessment methods are used at the later stages when a user can test a usability of goods via prototypes. Such methods help to evaluate the effectiveness of an app or a website as well as determine the level of users’ satisfaction with a product. Real-time experiments assist to track users’ reactions and errors they make. The collected information is used for eliminating usability problems which have been determined during tests.

 

Finally, comparative usability testing methods are involved when designers need to choose between several solutions. Users compare two or more variants of UX elements then share the opinion with a creative team. Experts consider all the pros and cons of each variant and select the most user-friendly one.

 

There is a great number of usability testing methods. All of them vary and can be used under different circumstances. The choice often depends on goals which a team sets and the budget of a project. We’ve distinguished some common methods helping to test usability. Let’s see what they are.

 

home budget app case study

Home Budget App

 

Hallway Testing

 

This method foresees testing a website or an app on random people, meaning designers can ask someone passing in a hallway or elsewhere. Hallway testing may seem a bit difficult because it requires finding people who would love to take part in such an experiment and then would be able to give a constitutive feedback. The method is often used when the biggest part of work is done so that users could feel it like a complete product. Hallway Testing is one of the most common methods since it’s cheaper and faster than many others.

 

Remote Usability Testing

 

The name of the method speaks for itself. Such approach allows involving people from different countries so that a creative team could see how their product is perceived in various cultures. There are two types of remote usability testing: synchronous or asynchronous.

 

Synchronous remote testing is handled via video conferencing as well as various sharing tools such as WebEx or GoToMeeting. The synchronic approach allows designers to watch how different people use a product in a real-time. Also, users can receive some support from a creator if needed. Still, synchronous remote testing has its drawbacks. Users should be asked to gather in a certain time and if they live in different time zone it may be problematic. That’s why a day and time should be arranged upfront and it may take some time to find the best option for everyone.

 

Asynchronous remote testing is a bit easier to handle. Designers usually set particular tasks which users need to accomplish and then all the information including clicks streams and users’ errors that occur while interacting with a product are gathered automatically. Also, designers may ask users to give a small feedback about their experience. This way a creative team can track how people from different cultures react to the product using it in their own environment (e.g. at home).

 

usability testing

 

Expert Reviews

 

This common method involves evaluation from the experts with experience in usability testing. The approach gives the opportunity to receive wide and constituent feedback and spend less time for it. Experts usually apply testing tools but also they can test it like users. Also, there is another approach called automated expert reviews. It is conducted programs which define usability problems by the use of common patterns. Automated expert reviews are one of the fastest methods still it cannot test all the peculiarities connected with human factors.

 

Paper Prototype Testing

 

One of the essential stages of product creation is wireframing. It is a simplified and schematic visual representation of a layout for website pages or screens of an application interface.They are usually black and white illustrations, sometimes with bright marks or spots to outline specific areas or points, that give a clear vision of the project structure and connections between different parts.

 

The wireframes can be presented to users where they can perform certain tasks like in a real product by interacting with paper models. The method may seem unsophisticated still it’s a cheap and fast way to find out usability problems at the early stages.

 

Thinking Aloud

 

Thinking aloud is a usability testing method which aims at collecting feedback from users right in the usage process. Designers ask users to verbalize their thoughts and feelings which they have while using an app or website. A creative team can comprehend the attitude patterns of the potential users and apply the gathered info for future UX improvements.

 

design for users copy in UI

Design4Users Website

 

Is usability testing profitable?

 

We’ve described only several methods of usability testing but there are much more of them. Methods can be changed or combined depending on the goals. If you still doubt whether you need to conduct usability testing, let’s look at the list of tasks which it helps to accomplish and benefits it brings.

  • Collecting the info helping to improve UX;
  • Identifying problems and bugs which a creative team can’t notice;
  • Ensuring user satisfaction with a product;
  • Increased efficiency of products;
  • Reduced cost of development process;
  • Fast problem elimination;
  • A product with a high level of usability will definitely stand out of crowd.

They say better twice measured than once wrong. Just remember that it’s easier to fix problems at the early stages rather than rebuild a complete product.

human memory tips on ux design

 

Recommended reading

 

Usability Testing

 

Precious Errors: Testing iOS Mobile Applications.

 

Usability 101: Introduction to Usability 

 

The Brief Guide to Testing Mobile Interfaces


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mobile application QA testing tubik studio

Precious Errors: Testing iOS Mobile Applications.

No doubt, mobile devices present an integral part of human life these days. Development of mobile applications demonstrates rocketing progress: they become a reliable helping hand for a person in the variety of life aspects, such as communication, business, entertainment and the like.

 

The simplicity of installing and usage is making mobile apps more and more popular and sets them apart from web applications. Still, it has to be noted that the former cannot fully replace the latter due to numerous reasons. Having discussed the issue with Tubik QA engineer Olga Krasnokutskaya, today we would like to review some benefits and features of testing iOS mobile apps.

 

testing

 

Types and features of testing mobile apps

 

No doubt, every case of creating a mobile application is a sort of unique story. It needs its own deep research and specific approach to design solutions and their realization in code. Still, there are some general schemes and methods that are applicable to most cases. Olga says that working on iOS apps she takes Mobile Testing Cheat Sheet as a basis and adapts it for every specific case. As we mentioned in the full guide to creating a mobile app, testing is one of the crucial phases: it helps to reveal bugs before the app is brought out to real users. Testing enables to understand the quality of the app and find the way to improve it via real interactions.

 

The main difference of a mobile application in comparison to a web app is the requirement of its installing on device which has a particular platform, OS version, screen size, and variety of functions the device is able to fulfill, such as making and receiving calls, texting, taking calls and doing loads of other operations simultaneously. Let’s review the types of testing deeper in detail.

 

Installation testing

This type of testing can be carried out both in simulators and real devices. However, here in Tubik testing on a variety of real devices is recommended as a more efficient method, because simulators do not reflect all the functionality of real devices and variety of possible users’ actions. For example, simulator in Xcode can give incorrect presentation of interface elements on the screen and doesn’t allow testing an accelerometer and a camera.

 

Updates testing

Testing doesn’t end when an app is launched and used by real users: it’s a never-ending journey. Another important type is testing updated versions of the app saving all the data.

 

For installation of the mobile app on the device, we use several services of app distribution such as HockeyApp, Fabric, TestFlight. Each of them has both benefits and drawbacks. For instance, Hockeyapp allows installation of different app versions, while Fabric provides installation of earlier versions of the app and then updating them with later versions saving the data. TestFlight is needed to release the app on AppStore and is convenient for testing new features as it uses production certificate which speeds up check of the new build and its release on AppStore.

 

mobile application testing

 

Compatibility testing

This type of testing enables to check if the unit of testing is correctly integrated on devices with different operation systems and on the screens of various resolutions. It’s also important to mention that, according to the latest requirements to app distribution via AppStore, any mobile app created for iPhones has to perform correctly on iPad.

 

Stress testing

One of the big advantages of the mobile application is the ability to use them “on the go”. However, this aspect determines a constant change of the Internet source and signal — GPRS/3G/4G/WiFi; users can interact with the application in conditions of good or bad connection, repetitive disconnection, Plane mode. Incoming calls and messages, device locking, limited memory available, battery charge level or accidental taps – all those things can have a great influence on the app performance. Creative approaches to testing of this kind in maximum diversity of cases is highly recommended.

 

Functionality testing

This type checks the feasibility of functional requirements. Testing the functions of the app, it’s advisable for QA specialist to create test-cases or detailed check-lists. The documentation of this sort can be helpful for the team in defining possible “weak spots” even at the early stage when project requirements are analyzed.

 

Gesture testing

Gestures present the core distinctive feature of mobile apps in comparison with web apps. Naturally, this difference of interactions advances specific demands to designers, developers and QA engineers working over the product. Gesture testing checks the operability for the variety of gestures such as touch, swipe, tap, multi-touch, 3D-touch, turn, shake etc.

 

Multitasking testing

This sort of testing is aimed at correct app performance under conditions of several active apps on the background or when the tested app is minimized. Considering the specific nature and features of the device, the application should perform adequately in case of an incoming call or screen lock, without crashing or losing data.

 

Localization testing

Another aspect to be checked is localization, in particular the format of dates and time, translation, UI adaptation etc. What makes a real difference in comparison with testing this aspect for web applications is the screen size of a mobile device. On the one hand, the content in different languages should occupy the same place on the screen to save the style and visual consistency; on the other hand, it has to be adapted considering specific features of a particular country. For example, the content for the Arab countries has to be reflected in inverted manner and requires other sizes of buttons due to specific nature of their writing.

 

Usability testing

Mobile applications for iOS have to comply with iOS Human Interface Guidelines to get to the AppStore. Basically, it has to be convenient for the user to read and use the app using one hand which means that the content and fonts have to adapt to the screen size. It’s also important to check that users understand the warnings and notifications about errors.

 

Testing mobile applications is mostly handled in environments and conditions which are maximum close to real life when there are several background active apps and actively used devices with a variety of settings, apps and cash data. It’s also highly advisable to remember — or it’s even better to create a detailed check-list – about the system settings of the device used for this aim, to avoid some unwanted cases, like, for example, activation of saving mode right in the process of the test.

 

The time-consuming aspects of app testing are imitation of incoming calls and SMS, inputting long texts, creating videos for bug-reports, handling tests on every kind of real device.

 

testing digital product

 

Tubik QA engineer Olga says that knowledge on the variety of test types, their benefits and pitfalls, tools and types of devices is an issue of great impact, still practice plays even bigger role for performing high-quality tests of mobile applications for iOS. It’s not reasonable to state that having a considerable experience in testing web applications, QA specialist will easily plan and accomplish mobile app testing. Certainly, there are basic methods and principles which mostly deal with functionality, still, nothing can work better than practical experience, enabling a tester to reveal more bugs in the process of mobile app development in the future. We have to remember that the price of the error found before the release is much lower for the client than the one found after launching the product. Another aspect to consider is that it’s impossible to reveal all the potential errors due to the massive amount of incoming data in terms of limited time. That is when theory becomes a great help for QA specialists because it lets them to reduce the number of test cases via using the established techniques and methods with saving the necessary test covering.


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