What is Usability Testing in Software Testing

Usability Testing in Software Testing

Usability testing is also known as user experience testing. Usability testing in software testing is a method of testing how easy and user-friendly a software application. A small set of target end users, use the software application to demonstrate usability defects. Usability testing primarily focuses on the user’s ease of use of the application, the application’s flexibility to handle controls, and the application’s ability to fulfill its objectives.

This testing is recommended during the early design phase of the SDLC, which provides greater visibility into customer expectations.

Why do we need to test usability?

We need usability testing because the purpose of usability testing is to create a system with the best user experience. Usability is not only used for software development or website development but it is also used for product designing and users should be comfortable with your application with the following parameters:

  • Application flow should be good.
  • The navigation steps should be clear
  • Content should be simple.
  • The setting should be clear.
  • Response time

And we can also test various features in usability testing which are as follows:

  • How easy is the application to use?
  • How easy it is to learn the application.

Goals of Usability Testing

System Effectiveness

  • Is the system easy to learn?
  • Is the system effective and adds value to the target audience?
  • Are the content, colors, icons, and images used aesthetically pleasing?


  • Little navigation is required to reach the desired screen or web page, and the scroll bar should be used frequently.
  • Uniformity in the appearance of screens/pages in your application/website.
  • Search option in your software application or website.


  • There should be no outdated or incorrect data such as contact information/address.
  • No broken links should exist.


  • The controls used should be self-explanatory and should not require training to operate.
  • Users should be provided with assistance in understanding the application/website.
  • Alignment with the above goals helps in effective usability testing.

Usability Testing Features

Implementing usability testing helps us enhance the end-user experience of specific applications and software. With the help of usability testing, the software development team can quickly detect many usability defects in the system and fix them quickly.

Some other important features of usability testing are as follows:

  • It is an essential type of passive testing technique, which comes under the black box testing technique in software testing.
  • Usability testing is done system-wide and at acceptance testing levels.
  • Typically, usability testing is implemented in the early phase of the software development life cycle (SDLC).
  • The usability testing process offers greater visibility into end-user prospects.
  • Usability testing ensures that the software product fulfills its intended purpose.
  • It also helps us find many usability flaws in a particular software product.
  • Usability testing primarily examines the user-friendliness, usefulness, traceability, usability, and desirability of the final product.
  • It offers direct input on how real users use the software/application.
  • Usability testing involves systematically performing the usability of a product under a measured environment.

Usability Testing Methods

There are two methods available for testing usability:

  1. Laboratory usability testing
  2. Remote usability testing

Laboratory usability testing: The test is conducted in a separate laboratory in the presence of observers. Testers are assigned tasks to execute. The role of the observer is to monitor the behavior of the testers and report the results of the testing. The observer remains silent during the test. In this testing, both the observer and the tester are present at the same physical location.

Remote Usability Testing: Under this testing, observers and testers are located remotely. Testers remotely access the system under test and perform assigned tasks. The tester’s voice, screen activity, testers facial expressions are recorded by automated software. Observers analyze this data and report test results.

Usability Testing Process

The usability testing process consists of the following steps.

Step 1) Planning: During this step the usability test goals are determined. There is no point in having volunteers sit in front of your application and record their actions. You need to determine the main functions and objectives of the system. You need to assign tasks to your testers, who use these important functions. During this phase, usability testing methodology, number, and demographics of usability testers, and test report formats are also determined.

Step 2) Recruiting: During this step, you recruit the required number of testers according to your user test plan. Finding testers who match your demographic (age, gender, etc.) and professional (education, employment, etc.) profile may take time.

Step 3) Usability Testing: During this phase, usability tests are actually performed.

Step 4) Data Analysis: Data from usability tests is thoroughly analyzed to draw meaningful conclusions and make actionable recommendations to improve the overall usability of your product.

Step 5) Reporting: Usability test results are shared with all relevant stakeholders which may include designers, developers, clients, and CEOs.

Examples of Usability Testing

Let’s see some examples, where we understand the use of usability testing.

Usability Testing Example 1

Suppose we have two applications, namely P and Q, which are different but perform the same task, and we will see which one is more user-friendly.

Below are some of the key parameters or constraints we look at for testing, and most of the parameters are not measurable.

  • See and feel
  • Navigation should be easy
  • speed
  • compatibility
  • help
  • Location of components
  • Features

In this example, we learn application P in 4 hours, but it takes us 6 hours to understand application Q.

Let’s look at other different situations here to further illustrate the above example:

  • Since we consider application P in 4 hours, if we compare it with application Q, it becomes user-friendly.
  • Assume that the appearance of P is not suitable for the application. In such circumstances, we consider application P in 4 hours. We cannot state that application P is user-friendly.
  • Thus, we look at various parameters before calling the software user-friendliness.

In usability testing, the terms look and feel are most commonly used. Look and feel are used to describe how an application should look pleasing.

Say we have blue text on a red background. In fact, we are not interested in using it, and make sense to the end user to use it.

Usability Testing Example 2

We are taking a banking application where we prepare an application for a manager.

Now, if the end-user (manager) starts using the application in front of the test engineers.

Suppose two test engineers sit behind the end user while he is using the application and as a developer take the bug report to check whether the end user is using the application correctly or not.

And the end user (manager) will test the application step by step because he knows that the test engineer is looking at it.

Therefore, a test engineer becomes user-friendly with the application.

So only the end user should test the usage for better results.

Sometimes a test engineer has to perform usability testing for the following reasons:

  • No money to spend on usability testing.
  • Don’t want to outsource to another company.

Usability Testing Example 3

In this example, the director of the company goes and collects software (let’s say gaming software) and distributes it to various users such as employees, friends, etc.

Now, these end users will use specific game software and give their feedback to the director.

This director looks at their feedback and looks at the key feedback, then combines all the feedback and creates a report.

If a particular feature is reported for all end users, it should be considered, or if the feature is reported by only 1 or 2 end users, it becomes insignificant.

Once the major and minor bugs are stabilized, they will be fixed based on the director’s needs.

If it’s a major bug, it will be fixed first, or if it’s minor, it may be delayed or fixed in the next release.

Advantages of Usability Testing

Some of the key benefits of using usability testing are discussed below:

  • The usability testing process helps us validate the usability of the software.
  • This increased user satisfaction with the software product and also ensured the delivery of a good quality product.
  • Implementing usability testing will improve the adequacy and consistency of the software product.
  • With usability testing, we can discover usability issues before delivering the final product.
  • The end user is always eager to use the application.
  • The usability testing process helps us identify potential bugs and defects in the software.
  • This helps us to make the software more efficient and applicable.
  • Using usability testing will help us get relevant and accurate user responses.
  • It improves the suitability and consistency of the software product.

Disadvantages of Usability Testing

Some common pitfalls of implementing usability testing are discussed below:

  • As we know budget is the most important factor while evaluating any software. Here, the cost of usability testing also plays an important role. Setting up a usability test lab requires a lot of resources, and sometimes hiring or recruiting a usability test engineer can be expensive.
  • As we understood from the above discussion of usability testing that it is implemented by end users, sometimes it is a bit difficult to identify volunteers who can work as test engineers.
  • Basically, usability testing is not 100% representative of the actual state.
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