The importance of user testing during the software design and development process

User testing is incredibly effective because it gives you insight into how people use the software you’re building, making it the best way to ensure it is, in fact, usable and actually working the way it’s intended to work.

Yet, very few organisations carry out user testing because they think it is expensive, time consuming and difficult to do. But it needn’t be the case.

User testing is a valuable and effective exercise and we believe that any who wants to develop a web site, mobile app or software application can, and should, be performing user testing.

So, what is user testing?

Software developers and designers working together on a project cannot create the most optimal user experience without engaging real users. That’s because the software teams working on the project are too close to it – they’ll fly through the steps that might challenge a real user who is not deeply familiar with it.

User testing often involves getting a participant to test a software product or service, on a desktop computer or mobile device, to help discover problems in the design. It focuses on measuring the software’s capacity and ease of use, and examines whether it fulfils its intended purpose.

Put simply, it tests whether the software is user-friendly or not.

Why is user testing important?

If you’ve gone to the trouble of building a software product or service, you want people to use it, don’t you?

User testing allows you to collect the knowledge and insights you need to make your software project something that people will actually want to use. Regardless of whether you’re developing a product for customers, sale or building internal systems, your user base is critical to your success.

This is why your software product or service needs to help people achieve their goal. If it allows people to get what they need, they’ll enjoy using your software and continue to do so, and maybe even recommend it to others.

To understand how and why people use your software product or service, you need to observe their behaviour. Then ask yourself: Do people use your software for the same reason you built it? Do users get value from your software product/service? If users achieve their goal, are they left feeling satisfied or frustrated?

With the answers to these questions, you’ll be able to bridge the gap and create better software products for your users that will keep them coming back time and again.

User Testing

How user testing can inform decisions

User testing is successful when the design team receives the information they need to make the right decision to improve the software product or service. But it’s important to avoid common mistakes to ensure you can work toward informed decisions.

Firstly, you need to know why you’re user testing. What do you want to discover through testing your software product or service? It’s important to set clear objectives before you begin user testing to ensure the results provide an answer that allows you to move forward with the software design.

For example, a standard usability test may produce vague results. A user may be frustrated with the design because they couldn’t complete a single task with ease, yet they provide feedback that they liked it. Another user may be able to complete tasks quickly and easily but find the interface cumbersome, and yet they provide feedback that they’d definitely use the software again. As you can see, these are conflicting results and they don’t allow you to make informed decisions about how to improve your software design.

It would be more useful to test for specific requirements, such as “Can users sign up for your software service without confusion?” or “Does the design convert users from being a visitor to a purchaser of your product?” The more detailed your question is, the more useful your results will be.

Independence is key to your project’s success

It’s important to remember that, in most cases, your user won’t be familiar with functions in your system, and will be self-teaching as they use your software. Even if there’s training involved, users will often forget how things work. With this in mind, it’s important to develop tests that cover a variety of areas such as usability, the use of language, the user interface, and documentation.

Spending time on user testing may seem tricky, but getting it right will reap massive benefits to your projects and help you keep your users happy and engaged.

Looking to test your software product or service?

If you’d like to know more about the benefits of user testing your software project call us on (03) 9016 3066 or send us details via our contact form