As a UX designer, our job is to learn as much as you can about the users we’re designing for. It helps create a useful product that meets the users’ real neds. One way to learn about users is through usability studies. Usability study is a research method that assesses how easy it is for participants to complete core tasks in a design. It sometimes refers to as usability testing, which means the same thing.
Usability studies / testing can help your team to understand how real users interact with your designs and how well your product meets their needs. Because usability studies cna be relatively inexpensive, they’re a “low risk, high reward” way to test designs!
There are two types of usability studies that you can conduct: moderated and unmoderated.
Moderated usability studies have a person, known as a moderator, guide participants through the study in real time. This is a good way to build rapport between the moderator and participant. This can help the participant open up and share more feedback abou the design as well as dig into the details with follow-up questions throughout the session to learn more.
Unmoderated usability studies have participants test the prototypes without human guidance. Participants move through the study at their own pace and often in their own environment. Usually, the study is recorded on video, and the UX team reviews the video footage after the study. Unmoderated studies can be advantageous because they more closely simulate how a user would interact with the product in the real world.
Whether you conduct a moderated or an unmoderated usability study, a few things will remain the same:
- Tasks in a usability study are actions a real user might perform like entering an address, placing an order, or making a reservation. The tasks should be the same tasks that an actual user would need to complete to successfully move through the product in the real world.
- The script should be repeated with each participant, in the same order, to replicate the same study environment. Consistency is key here.
- Participants should be representative of the product’s target users and should align with the personas you created earlier in the design process. They should share the same traits that you have already matched with users of your product.
Usability studies can and shoould be conducted at every stage of the UX design process. Of course, the number of studies you conduct depends on your project’s timeline, goals, and budge. But usability studies can happen when you have a low fidelity prototype, a high fidelity prototype, or even a finished product.
Check out below articles for more:
On usability testing, Usablity Testing by Interaction Design and Usability Testing 101 by Nielsen Norman Group
Advantages and disadvantages of moderated and unmoderated usablity testing.