What is Usability Testing?
What is usability? (taken from Usability.gov)
Usability is the measure of the quality of a user's experience when interacting with a product or system - whether a Web site, a software application, mobile technology, or any user-operated device.
Usability is actually a combination of factors that affect the user's experience with the product or system.
If a user has used the system before, can he or she remember enough to use it effectively the next time or does the user have to start over again learning everything?
Once an experienced user has learned to use the system, how fast can he or she accomplish tasks?
How often do users make errors while using the system, how serious are these errors, and how do users recover from these errors?
How fast can a user who has never seen the user interface before learn it sufficiently well to accomplish basic tasks?
How much does the user like using the system?
What is an actual usability test like? (taken from Usability.gov)
The focus of a usability test is the user's experience with a site. The site may exist only as a paper prototype, or it may be a real working prototype or a site that has already been launched. The earlier you start to have users try out the site, the faster and easier it will be to develop the site you want.
During a usability test, specialists working with the designers and developers of the site watch users working through tasks with the site and gather other feedback. The purpose is always to see what is working well and what is not working well - with the goal of improving the site. Usability specialists manage the test, work directly with the users, and take notes; designers, developers, and others also observe - usually from an adjacent room or from a live video and audio stream - and should also take notes.
Usability specialists gather all the notes, consolidate and analyze them, and together with the designers and developers consider the problems they saw and how to solve them. The result of usability testing is a set of recommendations for improving the site.