Usability Testing Unveiled: A Step-by-Step Guide for Designers

Introduction to Usability Testing

“91% of non-complainers just leave and 13% of them tell 15 more people about their bad experience.”

(Source: Lead Pages)

“70% of online businesses that fail do so because of bad usability.”

(Source: Uxeria)

What does that indicate to you?

This indicates that, regardless of how long a company has been in operation or how new it is, user experience is moving beyond the purview of designers and into the mainstream. And it is important for companies to do their own usability testing on all their products. 

“Only 55% of businesses conduct UX testing.”

(Source: Skyhook)

This is perhaps the reason why so many well-known businesses are using usability testing to identify issues and enhance their goods and websites. This is how they are staying ahead of the curve 

Benefits of Usability Testing

Enhanced User Satisfaction

  1. Identifies User Pain Points: Usability testing allows designers to pinpoint areas of frustration or confusion for users. By addressing these pain points, designers can enhance the overall user experience, leading to increased satisfaction.
  2. Validates User Preferences: Through direct user feedback, designers can validate whether the design aligns with user preferences. This ensures that the final product is more likely to resonate positively with the target audience.

Identification of Design Flaws

  1. Uncover Navigation Issues: Usability testing helps in revealing any difficulties users may face while navigating through the interface. This insight enables designers to refine navigation structures, improving the overall usability of the product.
  2. Detection of Cognitive Load: Usability testing can identify instances where users experience cognitive overload, such as when information is presented in a complex or confusing manner. Designers can then simplify these elements for better user comprehension.

Optimized Task Flows

  1. Streamlined Workflows: Usability testing provides valuable insights into the efficiency of task flows. By observing how users interact with the design, designers can identify and eliminate unnecessary steps, resulting in streamlined and more efficient workflows.
  2. Improved Accessibility: Usability testing helps in ensuring that the design is accessible to users with diverse abilities. This includes considerations for users with disabilities, making the product inclusive and user-friendly.

Increased Conversion Rates

  1. Conversion Path Analysis: Usability testing can focus on specific user journeys, such as completing a purchase or signing up for a service. By optimizing these conversion paths, designers can positively impact conversion rates and contribute to the project’s success.
  2. Clarity in Call-to-Actions: Testing provides insights into the effectiveness of call-to-action elements. Designers can refine these elements based on user interactions, making them more intuitive and persuasive.

Early Issue Detection

  1. Pre-emptive Problem Solving: Usability testing at early design stages allows for the detection of issues before they become ingrained in the final product. This early problem-solving approach saves time and resources by addressing potential issues in the conceptual phase.


  1. Reduces Iteration Costs: Usability testing helps in identifying issues early, reducing the need for major design overhauls in later stages. This can result in significant cost savings by avoiding extensive revisions after the product is developed.
  2. Minimizes User Support Costs: A product with higher usability requires less user support. Usability testing contributes to creating self-explanatory designs, reducing the need for extensive user training or customer support resources.

Planning Usability Testing

#1 Defining Objectives

Tasks at hand Clearly Articulate Testing GoalsAlign Objectives with Project Goals
How?Before embarking on usability testing, define clear and specific objectives. What do you aim to achieve through the tests? Whether it’s identifying navigation issues, evaluating task completion times, or assessing overall user satisfaction, having well-defined goals is crucial.Ensure that the usability testing objectives align with the broader goals of the project. This alignment ensures that insights gained from testing directly contribute to the success of the overall UI/UX design.

#2 Selecting Participants

Tasks at hand Identify Your Target AudienceDiversify Participant Pool
How?Understand the demographic and psychographic characteristics of your target audience. Select participants who represent the end-users of your product. This ensures that the feedback gathered is relevant and actionable.Aim for diversity in your participant pool to capture a broad range of perspectives. Consider factors such as age, gender, tech proficiency, and familiarity with similar products to create a well-rounded sample.

#3 Creating Realistic Scenarios

Tasks at hand Reflect User ScenariosBalance Specificity and Flexibility
How?Craft scenarios that mimic real-life situations users might encounter while interacting with your product. This helps in assessing the product’s usability in context and provides valuable insights into user behavior..While scenarios should be specific enough to guide participants, allow for some flexibility. This ensures that users can approach tasks in a way that feels natural to them, revealing more authentic usability insights

#4 Practical Tips for Streamlining Planning

  1. Develop a Detailed Test Plan – Document a comprehensive test plan that outlines all aspects of the testing process, from recruitment to post-test analysis. This plan serves as a roadmap, ensuring that all team members are on the same page.
  2. Pilot Testing –  Before the actual usability tests, conduct a small-scale pilot test. This helps in identifying any potential issues with the test materials or procedures and allows for adjustments before the main testing phase.
  3. Schedule Participants Thoughtfully – Consider participants’ schedules and preferences when scheduling testing sessions. Aim for a balance between convenience for participants and efficiency in your testing timeline.
  4. Prepare for Technicalities – Ensure that all technical aspects, such as recording tools and test environment setup, are tested and ready to go. Technical glitches can disrupt the testing process and compromise data quality.
  5. Establish a Consistent Moderation Style –  If you’re using a moderator, ensure a consistent moderation style across all sessions. This helps in maintaining consistency in participant interactions and minimizing potential biases.

Conducting Usability Testing

AspectConsiderations and Tips
Creating User-Friendly Tasks– Align tasks with defined objectives. – Keep tasks clear, concise, and easily understandable. – Reflect real-world scenarios for authenticity.
Selecting Appropriate Testing Methods– Choose between moderated and unmoderated testing based on objectives and resources. – Consider remote vs. in-person testing based on project needs. – Implement the “think-aloud” protocol to gather insights into users’ decision-making processes.
Executing Usability Tests Smoothly– Ensure a comfortable testing environment, whether in-person or remote. – Introduce the product naturally without providing excessive information. – Encourage honest feedback from participants.
Capturing Valuable Insights– Use a mix of quantitative and qualitative data for a holistic understanding. – Record user interactions through screen recordings or note-taking.- Stay flexible during sessions to adapt to participant feedback or unexpected issues.
Post-Test Debrief– Conduct post-test interviews for additional insights. – Compile and analyze data promptly after each session.

Analyzing Usability Test Results

  1. Organize Raw Data – Compile and clean raw data, including participant feedback and quantitative metrics.
  2. Define Key Metrics – Identify and calculate key metrics such as success rates and task completion times.
  3. Thematic Qualitative Analysis – Group qualitative data into themes to identify recurring patterns and issues.
  4. Code and Categorize – Develop a coding system to categorize qualitative data for easier analysis.
  5. Correlate Qualitative and Quantitative Data – Seek correlations between qualitative insights and quantitative metrics.
  6. Prioritize Issues – Prioritize identified issues based on frequency and impact on user experience.
  7. Root Cause Analysis – Probe deeper into issues through root cause analysis for a comprehensive understanding.
  8. Comparative Analysis – Compare results against benchmarks or across iterative design phases for context.
  9. Create Visual Reports – Summarize findings in a comprehensive report using visual aids for clarity.
  10. Provide Actionable Recommendations- Translate analysis into actionable recommendations, prioritizing changes based on impact and feasibility.

By adhering to these ten pointers, ui ux design company can efficiently navigate the analysis phase, extract meaningful insights, and guide informed design decisions for enhanced usability.

Implementing Changes Based on Test Findings

Critical vs. Minor Issues

Differentiate between critical usability issues and minor enhancements. Prioritize changes based on their impact on user experience.

Collaborative Decision-Making

Engage the entire design team in the decision-making process. Foster collaboration to ensure diverse perspectives contribute to refining designs.

Iterative Design Process

Adopt an iterative approach. Implement changes in small, user-focused iterations, allowing for continuous improvement based on user feedback.

Validation Through Retesting

Conduct a follow-up round of usability testing after implementing changes. Validate improvements and identify any new issues introduced during the modification process.

Maintain Design Documentation

Clearly document all changes made based on usability test findings. This documentation aids in team communication and facilitates future design iterations.

Accessibility Considerations:

Quantify Improvements

Use usability metrics to track the impact of design changes quantitatively. This provides measurable evidence of enhancements in user experience.

Challenges in Usability Testing

  • Challenge: Recruiting a diverse participant pool. 

Solution: Employ various recruitment channels and incentives to attract a broader range of   participants.

  • Challenge: Limited budget or time for testing. 

Solution: Prioritize testing activities, leverage remote testing options, and explore cost-effective tools.

  • Challenge: Interpreting subjective participant feedback. 

Solution: Combine qualitative insights with quantitative data to form a comprehensive understanding.

  • Challenge: Balancing realism and control in test scenarios.

Solution: Design scenarios that mimic real-world situations while maintaining a controlled testing environment.

  • Challenge: Participants feeling anxious during testing. 

Solution: Establish a comfortable environment, clearly explain the process, and use ice-breakers to alleviate anxiety.

  • Challenge: Analyzing a large volume of data post-testing. 

Solution: Prioritize key findings, use data visualization tools, and conduct iterative analyses.

  • Challenge: Resistance to implementing changes based on test findings. 

Solution: Foster a culture of continuous improvement, emphasizing the value of user-centric design.

  • Challenge: Balancing the need for data with user privacy. 

Solution: Implement strict ethical guidelines, obtain informed consent, and anonymize data when necessary.

  • Challenge: Managing the logistics of remote testing. 

Solution: Use reliable collaboration tools, provide clear instructions, and conduct pilot tests to address technical issues.

  • Challenge: Maintaining consistency in testing sessions. 

Solution: Develop a standardized test protocol, provide consistent instructions, and train moderators for uniformity.

Case Studies: Successful Usability Testing Examples


With 62 million patrons every day, McDonald’s is one of the biggest fast-food restaurant franchises in the world. However, McDonald’s adopted the mobile revolution somewhat belatedly, as their smartphone app was first released in August 2015. In contrast, 20% of Starbucks’ total sales in 2015 came from their smartphone app, which was already a huge hit.

McDonald’s has some catching up to do in the face of competition. They made the decision to work with UK-based SimpleUsability to find any usability issues prior to the app’s debut in the UK. Twenty usability tests were to be carried out in accordance with the test strategy, with task scenarios covering the full customer journey from beginning to end. Furthermore, there were 225 end-user interviews in the test plan.

Given the enormous magnitude of McDonald’s, this was hardly a large-scale usability study, yet it was nonetheless beneficial. During the study, several usability problems were found, including:

  • Inadequate call-to-action button appearance and functionality
  • poor restaurant-to-smartphone app communication
  • Favoriting and order customisation were lacking, which detracted from the overall user experience.

This is how the current McDonald’s mobile app appears:

This case study shows that useful insights can be obtained by allocating even a small portion of a business’s resources to usability testing.

Source: McDonald’s case study by SimpleUsability


SoundCloud, the leading music and audio distribution platform boasting over 175 million unique monthly listeners, recognized the importance of ensuring a seamless user experience for its mobile app users. In 2019, the company collaborated with test IO, a usability testing agency based in Berlin, to implement continuous usability testing. This strategic move aimed to guarantee the functionality of new updates across various devices and operating system versions within SoundCloud’s demanding development schedule.

The primary goals of SoundCloud’s ongoing usability studies were threefold: first, to provide a user-friendly listening experience for mobile app users; second, to detect and rectify software bugs before widespread release; and third, to enhance the overall mobile app development cycle.

Upon initiating usability tests, a remarkable outcome unfolded as more than 150 usability issues, including 11 critical ones, were unearthed in the very first round. Notably, these issues might not have surfaced through internal bug testing alone. The external user testers, situated across 22 countries and utilizing 144 different devices, brought diverse perspectives that proved invaluable. This extensive and geographically dispersed testing scale, facilitated by remote usability testing, offered insights that would have been challenging and costly to achieve otherwise.

Today, thanks to the continuous usability testing efforts, SoundCloud’s mobile app has evolved to meet the high standards of a user-friendly interface and a smooth listening experience. This case illustrates the significance of leveraging external usability testing agencies to uncover a broad range of issues, ultimately contributing to the ongoing refinement and success of the SoundCloud mobile app.

Source: SoundCloud case study (.pdf) by test IO


With more than 40 million users worldwide, Udemy is among the biggest online learning platforms in the world. The enormously popular smartphone app of the e-learning behemoth was targeted for usability testing, and it was intended for Udemy users.

Udemy tested its consumers to determine when, when, and why they preferred the mobile app over the desktop version. Udemy choose wholly remote, unmoderated user testing as their testing approach because the organisation is entirely digital.

Participants in the test were instructed to film brief videos indicating their location and the tasks they were concentrating on during the learning and recording process.

The first idea put forth by the user researchers—that “users prefer using the mobile app while on the go”—was proven to be incorrect. Rather, they discovered that most users of mobile apps were not moving. Users of Udemy’s mobile app have utilised it at cafeterias or at home on couches for a variety of reasons. The main conclusions of this user test were used to the development of new features and products for the next year.

The current version of Udemy’s mobile app looks like this:

Ethical Considerations in Usability Testing

Ethical considerations in usability testing are paramount. Protecting user privacy, obtaining informed consent, and ensuring transparency in data usage are essential ethical principles. Upholding these standards safeguards participants’ rights, fostering trust between testers and users. It is crucial to prioritize ethical practices to maintain the integrity and credibility of usability testing processes.


Summing up the article, we’ll reinforce the importance of usability testing in the UI/UX design process. Emphasizing its impact on user satisfaction and project success, this conclusion will leave designers with a clear understanding of the value of incorporating usability testing into their workflows.


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