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Usability testing

Usability testing defined

Usability testing is about validating concepts with users to evaluate lovability and make sure solution design resonates with them. It is the process employed to evaluate a prototype or concept application by testing it with representative users, who perform specific tasks under realistic conditions.

A usability test: 

  • Provides tangible evidence of what is and is not working
  • Lets actual users determine whether assumptions made (such as in a Design Sprint) and the goals are aligned
  • Is not limited to a Design Sprint and is used often throughout an engagement
  • Occurs every 1-2 sprints during the development cycle to ensure that application designs are on track
  • May also include usability testing to validate the ease of use of the user interface design, so that time and resources are not spent on developing a poor user interface
Note: Pega Express™ usability testing involves users early on. It is not user acceptance testing (UAT). UAT only occurs after an application is built.

Benefits of usability testing

User testing is fast and provides immediate feedback from the kinds of people who work with and use the solution. It takes about 45-60 minutes to conduct as testing focuses on a defined problem space. 

User test benefits include:

  • Unbiased results. You work with and get insights directly from end users. Your team can translate those observations directly into action. Business decisions are driven by validated by evidence rather than assumptions and opinions.
  • Early issue identification. Issues can be found and addressed before a single line of code is written. You avoid the long software development lead time and can address issues iteratively.  
  • Time savings. Precious time and resources are not wasted rewriting code.
  • Pain avoided. You may discover and avoid user pain points that might otherwise have been overlooked.
  • Early positive feedback. You learn quickly how satisfied users are with the product.
  • Risk mitigation. You avoid issues and increase the team and Product Owners' confidence that the released application is adopted.
  • Positive experience. User testing gives end users an early experience with the solution. That drives loyalty, which may ultimately result in an increase in market share for the company.
  • Cost savings. You avoid costly research labs or having to wade through lengthy reports.

Frequency of usability testing

Conduct usability testing early, often, and continuously. Incorporate usability testing and feedback into the project cadence and execute user test sessions whenever there is a need to validate assumptions. In a Pega Express project, testing is an iterative process. Each iteration reduces risk, allowing your team to adapt to feedback.

At a minimum, execute usability testing:

  • On Day 5 of a Design Sprint
  • Every 1-2 Sprints during the Build phase of your project

Usability test planning and execution

Whether in-person or in a virtual setting, work together with your experience design team on the details of staging a usability test.

To design an effective user test:

  1. Start with a research goal: Define the problem that you want to solve and the questions you want to answer before testing.
  2. Select a scenario: Determine where you want the user to begin and set the stage for them. Doing so provides context for the user and gives the interviewer a few opening lines to continue with the rest of their questions.
  3. Write an interview script: Prepare a series of open-ended questions to observe the user’s reactions to the tasks you want them to perform during the test. Line up the questions with the tasks you want the user to complete.
  4. Do a dry run: After drafting an interview script, make sure it syncs with the prototype or application. Then, conduct a dry run with the team. Elect one person to go through the entire prototype, narrating as they go, while everyone observes.
  5. Run the test: Welcome participants with a brief introduction to help the end users (testers) feel at ease.
  6. Debrief: After running the test, ask users to share additional thoughts, comments, and reactions. Document your observations and capture their feedback to distill the test results into final findings and the next steps.
Tip: Think about what level of fidelity your project needs. Do you need to get a single idea across? Can a (low fidelity) paper prototype work? Or, do you need a more robust version with a (high fidelity) clickable prototype as close to the end state as possible?

Final considerations

User research is a team sport. Consider who is best suited to take on the various roles of:

  • Writing the interview script 
  • Interviewing 
  • Observing
  • Documenting observations and findings

You also want to consider:

  • Whether the user test is held in-person or in a virtual setting
  • What kind of experience design support you need
  • Who on the client stakeholder team should be involved
  • Who to invite to participate in and audit the tests (work with the team leads to come up with a list)

Once each user test event is done, analyze the results, and share them with your project team. Then decide on the next actions together. Consider presenting any surprising results, insights, and facts to the wider community and senior management.

Tip: Make the findings report interesting to consume: use direct quotes, keep it visual, and short. Think of the report as a highlight reel.

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