Usability Testing Questions You Should Know Before the Test

Usability testing questions are tremendously important, but have you really ever stopped to think them through? Many times, when it comes to usability testing, people will formulate the questions last minute, or on the fly, thinking that whatever comes to mind is a given. This is a mistake because usability testing is so crucial, so, designing the tests should be a clear, strategic and logical process. Alas, many people do not realize this. The biggest issue is that many user experience fields don’t have a de facto list of basic questions for this testing phase, upon which further questions and procedures may be built. This results in everyone creating arbitrary criteria for tests, and no standardization (a must in most industries) to be established, whatsoever. So, let’s take a moment and look at five of the most important usability testing questions that should be asked when going into this phase. These are all equally important, so please disregard their order, aside from perhaps as a procedural order. You may find that some of these questions need minor modification to meet your scenario and testing goals. That’s alright, this is intended to be built upon. That is the principle of standards #1 – Could my grandmother figure this out? This is an odd question and an insult to nobody’s grandmother, but a general type of question for how easy it is to grasp the concept behind the design. Elderly individuals are often intimidated by new ideas. Striving for a design to be easily grasped by those who have a self-imposed impairment to innovation or adaptability is a good way to see if the concept is too complicated or alien for an average population to quickly embrace. This will inspire the inclusion of such demographics in the test, which is very important. If at least 2% of this testing demographic has no problems embracing the design, then it is a sign of success. Very forgiving margins, for usability testing, ah? #2 – Does it look like it works? This is about aesthetics and presentation. There is something to be said for how a design’s look and presentation is handled, to give the impression of competent efficiency or clunky instability. This is especially the case in software. Often, if an overly-painted and pretty GUI looks like it doesn’t work, a user expects it to be slow and not responsive, given the nonstandard libraries and components used. If it looks like it doesn’t work, users are going to believe it does not, even if they see it working. What impression does it give, even if it’s a prototype? #3 – Can everyone access this? This is about being sure that your design is as compatible as possible. It is a common mistake to design something leaning on the high grade equipment you are using to design and test it. Can someone with lower-end equipment use it? Does it rely on technology that less than two out of three people in a demographic have? If the answer is yes, then something is wrong and it will probably be a costly mistake. #4 – How quickly can I perform a task? This isn’t about bandwidth or computing speed, so much as how involved accomplish any given task in a design actually is. The more convoluted and involved it is to accomplish any given thing, the less usable it is. Minimal steps need to exist to accomplish any given task, and minimal tasks should be required to achieve an ultimate goal. Step carefully though, as too much automation or generalization can be a bad day too. #5 – Can I explain this without jargon or comparing it to other things? This is how effectively the design delivers through presentation and actions the task and function it was designed for. If it takes a lot of complex terminology or comparison to disparate concepts in order to convey, after using it, what it is and how it works, then the design while functional is not effective and correct. Good design is usable when it can be summed up very clearly and independently by a user after they experience it. Otherwise, it isn’t only unable to stand on its own, but is too abstract and needs to be taken back to the drawing board. For usability testing, these are the five standard questions upon which to build. They are far from the only ones, but we propose these as a starting point for everyone’s testing phase planning henceforth.