Usability Testing

The most effective way of understanding what works and what doesn’t work in any user interface is to watch people use it.

When to conduct a usability test

  • Any time you design something new, make modifications to an existing systems or build a prototype.
  • When questions and assumptions formed during the project need verification.
  • When you need to watch people interact with a new UI component.
  • When you want to connect with your end user community (students, faculty, colleagues), so you can gather their feedback on your project, in a most constructive and focused way. Invite people who will most likely use or  be impacted by the application, website, or service you are offering.

Overall we encourage usability testing early in the project stage so there is time and resources to address the test findings. Usability tests help build confidence, project support, and design direction. Attributes that are vital to all successful projects!  

Usability testing

Observing a Usability Test

"Hmm. What are they doing? Why are they having difficulty? This is easy for me!"

The Collaborative UXO Usability Testing Process

Usability Test is NOT:
  • A focus group
  • An interview
  • A quality acceptance test (QA) -- It is recommended to conduct tests early in stages of development to observe how well user flow and user expectations are supported in the interface 
  • About debugging the product (though bugs are often revealed during the test sessions).
  • An opinion survey. We establish a comfortable rapport with the participant that allows meaningful feedback beyond casual remark: "Looks good to me!" 
  • A confirmation of your idea. We don’t force an issue or agenda. It is not our goal to prove anyone right or wrong – but rather to demonstrate how well the interface supports the user throughout all their steps on their task journey.


You were just invited for a usability test, what can you expect?
  1. It starts with a hello and a thank you! You will be greeted by a test facilitator either in person at the LAB or through a Zoom session. 
  2. Introductions. We get to know each other and gain familiarity with the session format. 
  3. Perform familiar tasks. A few key tasks for engaging with the interface have been designed before the session. We observe how straightforward and easy it is for you to complete these tasks with the new interface. You are the expert here - and if the task proves difficult to complete - that is a poor reflection of the interface - NOT YOU! 
  4. Post-test: Answer a few survey type questions about your experience with the prototype and offer any additional comments.

We really appreciate your time and frank input! It is very useful for the design and development process!