Usability testing guide | What is it? How do I get started?

Usability testing is extremely beneficial for your product; but very tricky to get right. This page will give you everything you need to get started with usability testing.

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Usability testing| Recap 

What is the purpose of a usability test?

"Usability testing" can be used in a general or a specific way. The narrow definition of a usability test is that a test should identify non-functional issues which could prevent the successful use of a particular product. In broader terms, and via the GAT platform, you might:

  • Learn whether participants can complete specific tasks
  • Identify how long it takes to complete those tasks
  • Find out how satisfied participants are with your product 
  • Identify changes required to improve user performance
  • Analyze the performance to see if it meets your usability requirements

User testing, UX testing, Usability testing… what’s the difference?

Usability testing is generally considered a more specific term than UX or User testing.

UX testing is a superset of usability testing: a UX test might refer to any test which bears an impact on your UX. Lots of feedback on UX might be useful for a product team to hear, but not a usability issue per se if it does not affect users’ levels of success. 

User testing is testing on users. Functionality, content, aesthetics, in addition to usability testing can all be covered by User testing; and user testing can also encompass a variety of methods which include but are not limited to the controlled experiments we’d associate with a usability test.

Why should I undertake usability tests?

There are lots of different reasons to undertake usability tests, both macro and micro. Check out our list below:


Increased user success = more money! 

Most of the reasons you would want to identify usability issues are commercial. It is obvious that better usability will lead to improved commercial performance, but perhaps less clear how effective it can be. Research by the NN group found that there was a 135% return on investment in usability. 

This could be because usability affects all areas of product use and growth. Greater satisfaction results in better retention; better reviews; more signups. 


Pinpoint problem areas

Usability testing helps identify problem areas by observing real users interacting with a product. It reveals where users struggle, encounter confusion, or make errors while completing tasks. Through participant feedback, task success rates, and behavioral observations, usability tests pinpoint specific issues in user interface design, navigation, content clarity, and functionality. This firsthand insight allows designers and developers to address these problems, ultimately improving the user experience and ensuring the product better aligns with user needs and expectations.


Drive user-centred design

Usability testing is a cornerstone of user-centered design. By engaging real users, it ensures products are designed based on actual needs and preferences. Testing uncovers user pain points, preferences, and behaviors, providing valuable insights for design improvements. This iterative process allows designers to make informed decisions, refine interfaces, and create user-friendly experiences. Usability testing fosters a deep understanding of user perspectives, ensuring that the final product aligns with user expectations, resulting in higher user satisfaction and successful user-centered design. (We also think about usability testing as part of an inclusive design strategy


Preventing expensive dev work

It can be useful to identify usability issues as early as possible in the product process to prevent software with usability issues from reaching production.




Types and targets of usability testing 

UI Usability testing & UX Usability testing

A user interface usability test is narrower in scope than a user experience usability test. UI usability testing focuses on evaluating effectiveness, efficiency, and user satisfaction of the interactive design.

Moderated usability tests (“summative” testing)

Most tests are moderated usability tests, wherein a moderator conducts the usability test in a controlled environment, often a usability lab. The moderator guides participants through tasks, observes their interactions, and collects data. These allow for in-depth interaction with participants, real-time observations, and the ability to probe for insights.

Eye tracking studies 

Eye-tracking technology is used to monitor where participants look on a screen or physical product during a usability test. This method provides insights into visual attention and gaze patterns. The eye tracking studies require precise data on visual behaviour, revealing what elements users focus on or miss. 

Remote moderated test

A cheaper and faster way to do usability testing is remote testing via shared screen. Participants conduct usability tests from their own location using remote testing software or tools. Moderators may guide them through video conferencing or screen-sharing. This offers limited control over the testing environment, potential technical issues, and challenges in observing non-verbal cues.

Unmoderated predefined test

It’s also possible to run an unmoderated test which is more similar to a survey. Users can follow pre-defined tasks and provide feedback (this is close to the UX testing offered by Global App testing). It’s scalable, cost-effective, and efficient for collecting large amounts of data. Participants can complete tests at their convenience.



Best practices for usability testing 

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Usability test steps

1. Analyse the kind of test you need

Identify the commercial case for usability testing and where you need to train your focus.

2. Make the internal commercial case

Secure the budget for the testing required and bring in any relevant stakeholders for sign off. 

3. Recruit relevant panellists 

Specify criteria for recruiting participants including the demographics, experience levels, and other characteristics of testers.

4. Book the space and handle operational requirements 

Whether that’s eye-tracking equipment, lab space, or something else; identify the operational requirements and act on them. 

5. Write results 

Analyze the data and write findings based on your results.

6. Act on the results 

Ensure that your findings are shared successfully with the business! 


Choosing and monitoring test metrics

You’re nearly ready to launch your usability testing initiative. Congratulations!  A lot of planning and hard work has got you this far. The last thing to consider is how you’re going to monitor your testing session and the metrics that you’ll use to do so. 

There are three main categories when it comes to usability testing metrics. These are (1) effectiveness metrics, (2) efficiency metrics, and (3) satisfaction metrics. It’s best to use a combination of these three metric types. This will help you highlight any usability problems that arise in the user experience, across the board. 

Top metrics include:

  • Task success - % users that were able to complete tasks
  • Number of errors - Number of errors made by users whilst completing the task
  • Time on task - How long it takes participants to complete the task 
  • Single Ease Question (SEQ) - Perceived ease of completing the task on a scale of 1-7 
  • Subjective Mental Effort Question (SMEQ) - Participants rate difficulty of completing the task
  • Confidence - Participants rate how confident they felt completing the task on a scale of 1-7 
  • SUM - A single metric combining task success, ease, and time on task metrics 

Usability testing plan

It can be difficult to write a plan. But generally they include the following components: 

  • Plan ID
  • Goal
  • Summary 
  • Timeline & dates
  • Investment
  • Scope of test by features & areas, including excluded areas
  • Device and version approach
  • Methodology 
  • Participants profile 
  • Observation criteria 
  • Interview questions 
  • Coordinated dependencies and responsibilities
  • Worksheet 
  • Expected method of analysis
  • Hypothesis: expected results 


Usability testing tools and services

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Global App Testing 

Global App Testing is a usability testing service that focuses on crowdtesting, which involves a diverse group of testers from around the world evaluating your application or software. With GAT’s powerful demographic controls you can get started straight away sending software tests.


Global App Testing integration partner, TestRail is a popular test management software tool developed by Gurock Software (acquired by Idera, Inc.) for organizing and managing software testing efforts. TestRail is designed to help quality assurance (QA) teams and testers streamline their test case management, test execution, and test reporting processes. 

Optimal Workshop

This suite of tools, including Treejack, OptimalSort, and Chalkmark, focuses on information architecture and navigation usability testing. They help you evaluate the effectiveness of your site's structure and content organization.


Crazy Egg provides heatmaps, scrollmaps, and user session recordings to visualize how users interact with your website. These insights can uncover usability issues and areas for improvement.

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