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How to differentiate between User testing and Usability testing?



As a developer, one, we assume, accepts the fact that testing is one of the most crucial phases of any project. It must be involved at every stage, ironing out the kinks and glitches which might hamper the general usability and range of stability of your project. Involving users, the community, fellow developers and potential investors is just one small part of the testing phase, which is usually conducted in many types and stages. Alpha testing, beta testing, continuous and destructive testing, all are different methods of examining and analyzing your project to remove all potential glitches and bugs, and to make sure that your platform works exactly as intended.

For websites, in particular, there exist two things known as user testing and usability testing. Many people confuse the two and consider them to be one and the same thing. To many people, it seems like a case of semantics, wordplay or even synonyms. There is a very subtle difference, however. Let’s clear that up for you.

Also Read: Important Principles of Modern UI Design

User testing (both automated user testing and non-automated) usually refers to the User Experience (UX) part of any project, thus, it is often confused with the term ‘usability testing’. User experience consists of all the perceptions, emotions and responses linked to a user that occur when he/she is using or has used the product under consideration. User testing usually answers questions of the type-

  1. Do people need your project?
  2. Would they be willing to leave their current solution to some problem and adopt yours?
  3. Would they pay good money for your solution?

…and some more.

Usability testing is more of the kind of testing that people talk about when they say that they need to run tests on their platform. It basically analyses the interface and ease of use of your product, in order to determine if people can use your product to solve their problems easily and efficiently. Its importance is paramount when it comes to investing time and effort in building an application or designing a website. It lays out a detailed study of all errors, bugs and unwanted behavior in your project, and also determines its efficiency, compatibility, and credibility. conducting usability testing is one of the main steps in developing any big project.

In order to maintain a good level of product efficiency and user satisfaction, both user and usability testing need to be incorporated into your project, with a fine-tuned balance between the two. User testing and usability testing– when to use what? Owing to the almost-similar nature of these two facets of testing, it is commonplace to conduct usability tests where user tests would have been beneficial and vice versa. As mentioned earlier, these two terms are often confused, which can lead to loss of efficiency and time when it comes to big projects. So, let’s make it clear on when to use what kind of testing.


User testing and Usability testing

When to go for automated user testing

Imagine this.

You’re in a sticky situation that you just can’t seem to get out of, no matter how hard you try. For instance, assume that it is 2003, and you want to share some footage of something that you found to be incredible with the whole world. You’d assume that a whole bunch of other people would want something like this as well. You think of a video-sharing platform on the lines of the present day YouTube, which strikes you as a brilliant idea. Now, you need suggestions, validations and the like from people. What do you do?

This is where user testing comes in. You interview people, tell them about your project, ask them if they have had the same problems as you, what they have done to solve these problems, and would they be willing to use something that you create in order to solve their existing problems. Developers and innovators mainly try to answer the questions related to cost, needs and wants, acceptance etc. at this stage, thus, they engage in one-on-one interactions with potential users over their platforms/projects. Basically, this involves surveying your potential users and customers to find out their user experience, if they are going to become confirmed users of your platform or not.


The usability testing scenario

Let’s carry forward the aforementioned example. You’ve created a layout for the website that you’re going to make as part of your project, you’ve done the wireframing and all that good stuff. Now, you want to figure out if users would enjoy working on your project. Would they like some XYZ feature? Would it be easier to use if there was an auto-sign in instead of having to log in manually every time? Would your users be willing to subscribe to any paid services or features that you might offer?

Step in formative usability testing. This occurs right after you’ve decided the layout for your platform and have prototypes ready. This involves asking users to do simple tasks on your platform that would give them a feel of the final, finished product. Then you analyze the user’s experiences of using your product, and try to fix any bugs or errors brought to your notice. The analytics part is of prime importance here. You need to figure out what aspect of your project do users find incredibly easy to use, and what features you need to improve on. ‘How a user would like to solve a given problem’ is the way to go here.

Now that we’ve settled the debate of user testing and usability testing, here are a few tools that can help you implement these tests on your projects (websites, particularly) effectively.

a. Usability testing
  1. It is a very user-friendly alpha/beta usability testing tool, which enables users to track visits and conversions. It offers various types of testing on all platforms, and comes in both free-to-use and paid variants.
  2. 5-second test. This is one of the simplest tools for conducting usability tests out there, and as the name suggests, is one of the quickest. Each user looks at the page under consideration for 5 seconds and then answers some chosen questions.
  3. Here, test results are displayed using a heat map, with a native WordPress plugin being offered for WordPress users. One of the few drawbacks of this tool is that there is specific server requirements to operate this formative usability testing tool.
  4. This tool has been built to enable multi-language support while conducting usability testing, and it delivers quick results, usually within a day. It is a subscription-based service with plans starting at USD 39 per month.


b. Automated User testing tools
  1. One of the most popular form generation tools, Typeform is one of the easiest to operate user testing resources available out there.
  2. Here, the developer can collect feedback from their users by way of an integrated plugin for their site. It can be easily installed and offers a variety of communication techniques for developers and users.
  3. Google Hangouts. One of the more orthodox testing tools, as it is actually a social media platform. Hangouts can still be utilized for testing, especially remote testing where you can see live user reactions.

So, now that the subject of user testing and usability testing is sorted, feel free to go ahead and take the right kind of tests for your projects!


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