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Usability Testing

There are many validation routines an application should go through in its development life cycle. One significant validation routine is Usability Testing.Usability? Yes. You have got it right. It is about validating the ease of use of the application from end user’s perspectiveand how it can improve operational efficiency.Hmm fine. Does my application require usability testing?Any applicationwhich has its business logic tightly bound to a rich user interface is a good candidate for usability testing. We live in a world where we are closely using such applications which helps us do tasks in our daily lives like booking tickets or hotels, registering for a Zumba class or shopping items online. Additionally,different applications can have varied user bases – children playing in toddler game application, elders using health monitoring applications, the government using applications to review the status of infrastructure services rendered to the general public.Keeping the application usable for its intended user base is the critical factor for its success.

Now that we are convinced about the importance of usability testing, let’s understand more about it. Before we go further on this, Usability testing is not UAT (User Acceptance Test). UAT is to ensure that all the critical features of the application are working as expected whereas Usability is to ensure that the application will be designed and developed in a way that user finds the application easy, impressive and efficient.However, the commonality here is both are performed by end users.

In an application development, Usability testing has to be performed by end users and the project team closely works with the users to gather feedback. This feedback is usedto enhance and refine the design of the user interface of the application. In situations where end users cannot be involved directly,members of the test team play the role of end users to perform Usability testing. It is important that this group of testers have a good knowledge of the business use cases and how a good user experience can make things better.

Usability testing should be carried out after the user interfaceis designedand before its development, as this will help identify issues with the current design. As the thumb rule goes, earlier the defect identification cheaper the cost of the fix.

Usability testing should ensure that the below general points are met by the application. These points will hold good for anyapplication involving user interactions.

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Usability Testing

Few examples of usability errors which will annoy the user are

  • Navigating multiple pages to know that he has provided a wrong input or missed to fill a fieldon the first page of a form and the control fails to navigate him to error field.
  • Seeing error messages but not sure of what needs to be done next to complete the task
  • Wanting to shop more but unable to go back to shopping page from cart page during online shopping
  • Unable to go to home page after browsing through few links in a web page
  • Filled a registration form of twenty-line items but searching for the submit button to proceed. (Note: Best practice is to always keep the navigation controls in bottom right of the page
  • Unable to finish a transaction due to short session timings
  • Having to login for online shopping (Best practice: Login only to make transaction)
  • Font size too small for pages meant for senior citizens

Every application will require a separate list of usability test items based on its functionality and its user base.

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