Common Reasons People Avoid Usability Testing
Usability testing can have a huge impact on the quality of your product. If you participate in creating something, you will not identify all critical issues that will stop other users from accomplishing a task. Luckily, usability testing is something that anyone can include in their process. At its core, it is simply the act of watching people try to use what you’re creating and hearing them think out loud. Your goal is to learn how to make it more usable. In the words of Steve Krug, a major advocate of usability testing for all, “it’s not rocket surgery”.
When it comes to usability testing, something is almost always better than nothing. However, there are several common reasons that people feel hesitant to conduct usability testing.
1. “It’s not ‘real’ yet”
One major hesitation is that people often think that it’s not possible to start usability testing until the product “works”. On the contrary, it’s best to start testing as early as possible. You can test a paper prototype (or even a napkin). There’s not a specific level of fidelity that needs to be reached before you’ll benefit from testing. Of course, the level of fidelity will affect what it is you’re trying to learn, and you can let your participants know where you are. They’ll notice that your napkin isn’t a working app.
2. “I already know what won’t work”
Another related hesitation comes from a concern that you’ll waste time witnessing users stumble over known issues. It can feel awkward, but it’s important to accept that this is normal. You’re in it to learn about the usability issues you were not anticipating. It’s not advisable (and often not possible) to deal with all known issues before introducing users to your product. When you’re conducting a usability test, try to keep from being apologetic about the product. Let users fall into known issues, and redirect them after an appropriate period of time. Your twinge of discomfort might be a sign that you’re testing appropriately early.
3. “I don’t have the right users”
One of the most common hesitations is around not having the ideal sample of participants. This can indeed be an issue far into a project that is targeting a very specialized population. However, most serious usability issues are universal. In most cases, it’s much better to test early and often with anyone rather than no one. As Steve Krug says, you’re never trying to prove something. Instead, your focus should be to improve your product. Experts recommend testing with five users and establishing a cadence up-front that you’ll stick to. After five users, you’ll notice diminishing returns, but establishing a steady cadence as your team continues to build the product will benefit you.
4. “I’m not a UX researcher”
Last but not least, if you can hire a UX researcher for usability testing, especially for a complex project, you’ll be increasing your chances of success. If not, there is no reason to avoid usability testing altogether. With some reading and practice, you’ll go far in improving your products and your probability of success.
Helpful Resources To Get Started
If you’re interested in practical usability testing…
If you’re the primary voice of the user on your team…
If you’d like a primer on user needs…
- The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition by Donald A. Norman
If you want quick access to information from UX research experts…
If you want to start using a tool to help you conduct usability testing remotely…