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6 Best Usability Testing Methods for Mobile Apps

6 Best Usability Testing Methods for Mobile Apps

No one loves an app that’s cumbersome to use. Usability is a prerequisite for creating a successful app-based business. But how do you know if customers will find your app easy to use? There are several usability testing methods that will help you validate interface design before you launch your new app. Here are six of the best usability testing methods to consider for your mobile app, along with guidance for when to use them.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is a process used to evaluate a product or service by testing it with users that represent the target audience. The aim is to collect qualitative and quantitative data by getting real people to interact with the app to determine user satisfaction and to identify any potential usability issues. The results of usability testing are used to improve the mobile app’s design.

Before you select your testing method, you need to have a solid understanding of your target audience and their thoughts, beliefs, feelings, and motivations. Creating user personas is an excellent way to do this. 

A Framework for Evaluating Types of Usability Testing

To decide which type of usability testing is best for your situation, define your research objectives, mapping out your needs and desired outcomes. Three considerations will help you choose.

Remote or In-Person Testing

Remote tests can be done by phone or over the internet, where in-person tests have a moderator or researcher in the tester’s presence.  Remote tests tend to be less costly and faster as you don’t need to find space and may not need to pay participants. They also make it easier to test a larger number of people using fewer resources. In-person tests usually provide more data since the observer can see body language and facial expressions. They also enable the observer to dig deeper to understand a participant’s reasoning and motivations better.

Moderated or Unmoderated

Moderated tests can be in-person or remote, and they are given by a person trained to administer the test. The administrator must be familiar with the test and the app to answer any questions the test-taker may have. Unmoderated tests are done with no supervision. They may be taken in a testing lab or facility, though they may also be done remotely at home. Unmoderated tests don’t have anyone administering them, so participants don’t have the opportunity to ask any questions. Moderated tests generally provide more in-depth results, but they can be more costly. 

Explorative, Comparative, or Assessment

Explorative tests ask open-ended questions, where participants are asked to provide impressions and opinions with limited guidance. They are generally used early in product development. Comparative tests are when testers are asked to choose between solutions typically used for competitive comparisons. Assessments are generally used to determine a participant’s satisfaction with app functionality and overall usability.

6 Best Usability Testing Methods

Here are the most popular usability testing methods for you to consider using for your mobile app.

1. Phone Interview

A phone usability test has a moderator that instructs participants to complete tasks on their device. Feedback is collected from the user via a remote recording of their electronic behavior. 

  • Pros: They are less expensive than in-person interviews and enable the collection of more data in a shorter time period. 
  • Cons: A trained moderator is required who has excellent communication skills. Feedback will be activity-based and limited to what is communicated verbally since the moderator cannot see the participant to pick up body language cues.
  • When to use: Phone interviews are particularly helpful when participants are not in a centralized geography.

2. Card Sorting

Card sorting is a method of soliciting input for prioritization. Content and features are placed on cards, and the participants are asked to sort the cards, providing reasoning for their choices.

  • Pros: This method is simple, inexpensive, and fast.
  • Cons: It doesn’t go deep into reasoning, and people can be inconsistent, leading to potentially skewed results.
  • When to use: Card sorting is effective for optimizing architecture and navigation structure using data from potential users. 

3. Guerrilla Testing

This type of testing involves choosing random subjects in a public place to solicit feedback about a prototype, often for a small gift. 

  • Pros: It’s low cost and a quick way to collect qualitative data for functionality or design elements.
  • Cons: Not a good method for extensive testing or testing that requires follow-ups, as people are generally only willing to provide a short period of time. Also, the testing subjects may not represent the app’s target audience.
  • When to use: Use guerilla testing in the early stages of product development once you have a prototype or a wireframe.

4. Lab Usability Testing

This method of usability testing takes place in a usability testing environment with a moderator facilitating. Participants complete tasks on their devices, and the moderator answers questions and observes body language.

  • Pros: All testing sessions are run with the same standardized conditions, making them easy to compare results across participants.
  • Cons: They are expensive to administer and may not mirror real-life use conditions. Also, testing groups are usually limited to 5 to 10 participants, so it can be time-consuming to achieve volume.
  • When to use: Use when you need in-depth usage information.

5. Session Recordings

This usability method is when the actions of real anonymized users are recorded while they interact with the app. It demonstrates the features or content that are most interesting to users and what their problems are when they interact.

  • Pros: Allow you to form a hypothesis of what works and what doesn’t work with your app.
  • Cons: Results show positive and negative outcomes from users. However, another test needs to be conducted to understand the reasons why there are issues.
  • When to use: Use this method when you’re trying to determine if there are any major usability issues with your app.

6. Contextual Inquiry

Contextual inquiry obtains information about the user experience by asking participants a set of questions about their experience with an app. Then, users are observed and questioned while interacting with the app.

  • Pros: Receive data about environmental factors and deep information about usage in context.
  • Cons: Contextual inquiry is heavily reliant on the observer’s capabilities and interpretations.
  • When to use: This method shines when you need in-depth information about users, including their personal preferences, habits, and working conditions. 

The Best Usability Testing Method

Choosing the best usability method for your app will depend on your budget, the amount of time you have to collect results, what stage of design and development you’re at, and what information you’re seeking. You may incorporate one or more of these usability methods for your app development project.

Considering creating an app? Reach out to learn more about how we help clients build successful apps. Get in touch.

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