This article was written by Prashant Jawale. Prashant is a usability tester at Techved Consulting, which specializes in other fields like e-commerce website solutions as well. You may follow Prashat via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or his blog.
For manufacturing a product, many companies spend a lot of capital on proper and attractive designing as well as in the development of the product. Sometimes development stages may take months if not years and the product goes through lot of iterations before the final product is released in the market for selling it to the customer. Companies tend to spend a lot of money in these stages of product development and most of capital is spent on researching the different aspects to these stages.
The same principal applies for digital products. Digital products are the products which are delivered to the customers digitally via internet like software applications, which can be downloaded by the respective users. Many of these products, which are released every now and then, are mostly released without thorough testing. They are mostly prepared as by the owner’s point of view and only a handful of people must have used them. Most of these products are not designed keeping in mind the end users who actually will be using the product. Also, before launching such products, the developers do not do a thorough research on how the market works in which the product is released. What are the wants and needs of that market currently? Will their current product be able to solve the problems which the users in the respective market are facing? Since all of the mentioned steps are not taken into consideration, it results in the failure of the product in the market as the product does not satisfy the end user needs. This is where usability testing comes into play, where we can make sure we design the product in the right manner even before we release it.
Usability testing enables us to find the major flaws which we may experience later. We have to pay a lot to rectify the same if they are not found during the product development stages. It is very important to learn what people want and what features they will find valuable in the early stages so that we can check whether we are going in the right direction or not before launching the product in the market. You can save a lot of time, effort and expenses if you know and are aware that people like and want to your idea which will help them perform their tasks in more efficient manner. It will also boost your reputation. In order to provide great user experience and satisfication, you need to be wise in choosing your strategy.
To conduct usability testing for your product, it may seem to be a costly or expensive affair at start. You may have to develop the test plan, hire the respective professionals for testing and even have to pay for their travelling expenses some times. It is therefore important to strike the balance between the costs involved with these activities with the outcome from these activities. An example would be spending a significant amount on usability testing on a website which has very low severity issues which could be identified easily in cheaper ways, for this kind of website you can avoid investing too much on usability testing or avoid it.
Usability testing can be done using different approaches. But among different approaches, the ones which give better results and good return on investment are heuristic evaluation and expert review. There are other expensive methods as well, like direct observation by the owners in a lab, observation in a field and lastly remote testing.
Normally, heuristic evaluation is considered a cost effective and quick method of getting the feedback. In this method, a small number of participants are required, who analyze the user interface design against heuristics or set of predefined usability principles, then issues are identified. You can hire about five to six participants for usability testing and this count can go up to sixteen or above who then can do the usability testing for your user interface and find all the usability related issues which then can be looked upon.
Discount usability engineering is often used as a term to refer to heuristic evaluation because of its benefits on virtually every project. It is one of the cost effective and quick methods in usability testing types. Experts who have done usability testing for various projects say that just hiring one individual for usability testing makes it ineffective. For it to be effective, more evaluators are required, which can identify more issues in terms of usability. The set of usability principles should also reflect the current scenario at hand. This helps the team to stay focused on the goals of the project since all the principles are predefined. Ideally you can adopt heuristic evaluation as a method of usability testing for your project. Usability testing should be done in a systematic manner and also should be cost effective for a successful project.