What are the benefits of usability testing early?

September 17, 2018

Usability testing early in the web development process saves you time and money and will result in a better outcome overall.

Here’s how…

  • Early stage usability testing can be set up quickly, easily and cheaply: depending on the number of user groups, valuable feedback can be obtained from 3 testers (See our paper “How many testers are enough“)
  • It saves time and money across the life of a project because early stage changes can be incorporated quickly before lots of expensive design and coding time has been invested
  • Seeing ‘real’ users interacting with a prototype challenges tacit mental models about how the world works and, therefore, the assumptions underpinning design choices
  • Usability testing also challenges subjective decision making, instead of sitting around and debating the merits of various solutions within the team, it allows the user to make the decision by their behaviours demonstrating which is the most effective route
  • Prototype testing will surface user requirements that have not previously been identified, and so inform more generally about what users want
  • Usability testing will get feedback on a ‘macro’ strategic scale – do users understand the concept.
  • And feedback on a more ‘micro’ tactical scale – focusing on specific elements of the interface
  • User feedback at an early stage will result in an improved user experience, both usability and content meeting the users’ needs – which will improve user satisfaction on all sites and conversion rates on transactional sites
  • User testing may also surface issues outside the user interface e.g. issues about organisation branding and credibility, other offline requirements, that will enable the overall online and offline user experience to be improved
  • Usability testing will enable prioritisation, surfacing what’s most important issues to users and identifying where development effort should be concentrated
  • Usability testing helps to pull together the client and the developer team to help ensure that their understanding of the user goals are aligned, and that they have a clearer joint picture of what ‘success’ of the finished site will be.
  • During the earlier stages of a project, members of the development team will be less attached to design ideas and, therefore, less defensive about making changes
  • And because of that, early usability testing can promote creativity because the team is not tied to one solution
  • This can often lead to the development of alternative solutions which can be tested side-by-side to identify what works best for user
  • Finally, it allows you to understand, in detail, users’ behaviours right from the start so, overall you will develop a better, more user-centered website (see more: Why do Usability Testing)