Usability Testing

What is USABILITY TESTING?

Usability testing is a type of software testing that is performed to understand how easy or user-friendly the software is to learn and use.  Objective of usability testing is to allow end users to use the software, and observe their behavior, their emotional response (whether users liked it or not, were they stressed using it, etc.) and collect their feedback on how the software can be made more usable or user-friendly and incorporate the changes that make the software easier to use.

This includes different concepts and definitions of Usability testing from Software point of view. It is a black box technique and is used to identify any error(s) and improvements in the Software by observing the users through their usage and operation.

According to Nielsen, Usability can be defined as the following five factors. According to him the usability of the product will be good and the system is usable if it possesses the mentioned factors.

  • Efficiency of use
  • Learn-ability
  • Memor-ability
  • Errors/safety
  • Satisfaction.

Nigel Bevan and Macleod considered Usability as the quality requirement that can be measured as the outcome of user interactions with a computer system. This requirement can be fulfilled and the end user will be satisfied if the intended goals are achieved effectively with the use of proper resources.

Molich stated that an user friendly system should fulfill the following five goals

  • Easy to Learn
  • Easy to Remember
  • Efficient to Use
  • Satisfactory to Use and
  • Easy to Understand.

In addition to different definitions of usability, there are some standards and quality models & methods which define the usability in the form of attributes and sub attributes such as ISO-9126, ISO-9241-11, ISO-13407 and IEEE std.610.12 etc.

UI Vs USABILITY TESTING

UI testing involves the testing of Graphical User Interface of the Software. This testing ensures that the GUI should be according to requirements in terms of color, alignment, size and other properties. UI testing can be considered as a sub-part of Usability testing.

On the other hand Usability testing ensures that a good and user friendly GUI is designed, and is intuitive and easy to use for the end user.

ACCESSIBILITY or 508 COMPLIANCE TESTING

This is a subset of usability testing, verifying the software product is accessible to the users under consideration having disabilities (deaf, blind, mentally disabled etc.). Accessibility evaluation is more formalized than usability testing generally. The end goal, in both usability and accessibility, is to discover how easily people can use a web site or software and feed that information back into improving future designs and implementations.

Misconceptions & Confusions

Does 508 compliance is the same as accessibility?

‘No’ is the answer. 508 compliance is the law that federal judiciary wrote up to try and begin to set some standards for all electronic and information technology products. It provides the minimum standards for what is deemed acceptable, and ‘minimum’ really does not make a web-site fully accessible. Sure, you can make the effort to be 508 compliant, but it is very broad in meaning. Make the effort to be accessible, not just 508 compliant.

Does Accessible means the design isn’t as pretty?

This is a serious misconception. There isn’t anything about being accessible that necessarily makes a design look ugly. Anything that you can do with web standards and other best practices can be done accessibly, and that makes for a lot of great design potential.

Providing Alt Tags is all you really need to do to be accessible?

Adding descriptive alt text is the very least of what you can do to improve accessibility. There are numerous simple things one can implement in the design.

For e.g.,

1) If your main navigation page is long and spanned across pages, “skip navigation” proves to be very useful for those who are using the assistance of a screen-reader. What is skip navigation? It allows the user to not to have to hear the same navigation over and over every time they navigate to other pages on the same site.
2) Provide true semantic headers ( h1, h2, h3) and determine clear labels on forms to help those using screen-readers. This will help improve the user’s expereince when navigating through a site.
3) When marking up your content or provide additional options in a layout, consider font sizing (which is built into most modern browsers now), for those who may need to see text at a larger size.
4) Be mindful of color contrast for those who are color-blind or have a hard time determining different colors.

For more details on 508 Compliance, click here.

For a complete list of Web Accessibility Tools, click here.

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