Friday, 30 August 2013

What Is Usability Testing?

What Is Usability Testing?

In this article, we will try to answer one of the frequently asked questions in software testing, and that is "What is usability testing?" This is one kind of validation where we test the system from user's perspective.

The purpose of this is to check the following areas:

Does the UI of the system meets all the user requirement or after using one time the user will never use the application again? Here typically first thing we check is the application navigation system to make sure all the pages or forms can be navigated from one to another without any error.  Next we check if the look and feel, screen labels are correct and unambiguous. Third all the standard windows controls are present. This is very important for the usability perspective as most of the users are used to with all the standard windows or browser controls and if some of them are missing or in the wrong place they may face difficulty to navigate through the application. 

The next major objective of the usability testing is to test the application in a lab environment which closely simulated the actual user environment. We also try to match the load of the production systems. Typically, production like data will be used during this testing to get a realistic result from the application under test. This mitigates the risk of having surprised after prod deployment of the application.

At the end of the usability testing you have baseline user performance measure in place, which can be shown to the business users to set the correct expectation.
So now when we know what are the goals for usability testing let us check next. What are the steps to perform it?

1. Decide a handful of test case scenarios which you should run as a part of usability testing. The selection criterion is very simple. Talk to the end users and try to understand the frequently used functions in the business today. Often you may even use a back end system such as DB query or service calls, etc. to get these statistics.

2. Next select some end users who can take participation in this testing. Actual business users who run the application day to day would be really good in this part.

3. Set up the actual test lab for usability testing. As I have already mentioned it has to be as close as possible to the actual production environment with the similar kind of data loaded.

4. Provide the end used set of test cases to run and observe and write down all the problems they face during test execution. Collection of quantitative and measurable data is very important here. That is why it is a good idea to have some number of test coordinator who would actually write those observations on the behalf of the end users. Because they are not testing professionals so you cannot expect them to write defects for you.

5. Based on the observations send the recommendations to the development team.

Author: Prithwiraj Chakraborty
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