Mobile usability testing

Mobile Usability Testing: 4 essentials steps


Published on: 15 Sep 2020

By Vinod Subbaiah

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Seamless user experience weighs a lot on a new user’s decision to continue using a mobile app after downloading it for the first time. About 90% of the users stop using the app if it performs poorly, or is designed poorly.

Users are very sensitive to the user experience that a product offers. This in turn provides the impetus for businesses to pay more attention to user experience that differentiates a great mobile app from a mediocre one.

Although it sounds simple, many businesses fail to involve their users or get feedback from them during the app development process.

To design a user experience that your customers can resonate with, your development team should conduct a thorough user experience phase before starting with any development. If your mobile application is already live, you can ask users to perform certain tasks in your mobile app, and by observing them closely, you can receive great insight into users’ behavior and the app’s usability issues.

To get the best results from mobile usability testing, there are 4 important steps to take. These steps will ensure that you bring out relevant and insightful data that your UX designers and software engineers can use to improve the final product.

1. Set specific goals

A successful usability testing process kickoff with a comprehensive test plan, that includes first and foremost, a list of objectives to answer the questions: “What features of the app do I want to test?” and “What do I want to find out about these features of the app?”

Setting specific goals will help you better define your audience, choose the most appropriate testing environment, and will provide a framework for evaluating the results.

You’ll gather a lot of qualitative and quantitative data, which can become hard to interpret. Creating a mobile usability checklist to follow throughout the process and deciding ahead of time on the specific features, design elements, functional flow to test is the essential first step.

When guided by a meticulous plan, you’ll manage to map the information gathered and keep your team focused on the goals. 

2. Choose your audience

As a best practice, usability testing is conducted with a subset of actual users from your target audience. Only they can give you accurate and pertinent feedback about the app’s performance and usability issues.

If you don’t have direct access to your target audience, choose users based on your buyer persona’s characteristics, such as age, education, geography, occupation, cultural aspects, pains, fears, or lifestyle choices. These should be as close as they can get to your target audience so that the feedback you receive can help create an experience your future customers will appreciate. 

When possible, testing the app on a larger group of users will generate more significant results, as you’ll be able to identify behavior patterns or recurring errors.

Each user should receive a specific task to perform in the app. If you ask them to just browse around, chances are it won’t help you find answers to the questions you’ve defined in your plan. For example, if you want to discover how users navigate the checkout process, then ask them to complete a purchase in the app, and avoid offering any guidance.

This is the type of task clarity that will provide you an accurate evaluation of the app’s functionalities, followed by actionable steps.

3. Determine the testing methods

By conducting usability testing, you want to understand if users have a positive experience with the application and if they can complete their tasks without confusion or frustration.

Depending on your goals, the audience you’ve picked, and your available resources, you’ll choose a testing method, which can be either moderated or unmoderated, remote or in person.

Unmoderated usability testing does not require a facilitator to guide the participants during the test. Users usually perform the given tasks in their environment with their devices, so it’s mostly done remotely. This testing method is more appropriate if your goal is to better understand specific features or functional flows in your app. Primary advantage of unmoderated usability testing is that it is less expensive because you don’t need to prepare a testing environment. A potential drawback is that without a facilitator, there’s no possibility for an in-depth discussion if the tester’s insights create the opportunity for it. Being remote and unmoderated, you need to provide the tester a well-defined scenario with clear criteria, so that any miscommunication and confusion are avoided. The moderated usability testing is one with a moderator that supervises the entire test, in person or remotely. This method produces qualitative data and offers several benefits compared to the unmoderated method. It analyzes the user’s journey, not just a specific

functionality, and aims to understand their general behavior. To run a moderated session, you might need to find a space or rent a lab, plan computing resources, and hire a moderator if don’t already have someone on your team. In this regard, it could be a more expensive and time-consuming option. But it has the benefit of giving you an in-depth view of how users behave in the app and what drives their actions. 

With both approaches, you can capture the steps undertaken by a participant in the app, but only with a moderated approach, you can capture their body language, eye movement, and facial expressions to give you a very clear picture of the user’s experience with your app.

4. Analyze the results and create an action plan

Now that you have gathered all this quantitative and qualitative data, you want to make sense of it to transform the data into an actionable plan.

Based on the objectives you’ve set and the mobile usability-testing checklist, you should start to break down your data into categories. This will cover user flows, features, and user behavior puzzles that you were looking to solve.

The quantitative data will give you insights into the gravity of the issues that exist and determine which ones are more critical. On the other hand, the qualitative data will help you understand why users perform tasks the way they perform, and if there are opportunities to make it better for them.

Examine the results, prioritize the issues, and come up with an action plan to solve them. Collaborate with all the stakeholders to get everyone on board with the problems that need to be fixed. 

Usability testing is crucial to developing a mobile application that is effective and succeeds in attracting customers and winning their loyalty. It provides an excellent opportunity to build a great product from the start, which ultimately will help your company drive long-term business growth. 

Vinod Subbaiah Vinod Subbaiah