What is usability testing?

Usability testing is the process of testing a prototype, website, app, or product to ensure people can complete a goal. The goal varies per product. A usable product is one that reduces friction and exceeds users’ expectations.

Why is usability testing important?

People’s patience with digital products is thinning. At the same time IT consumerization raises their standards constantly. Five years ago, people expected that using new systems would require training. Today, people expect to get started immediately.

They don’t want to read the manual, watch a tutorial, or get a demo from a salesperson. Instead, frictionless experiences are expected.  The sooner a user realizes value the better the odds for engagement levels to be sustained.

Usability testing embraces this outcome since it is all about matching customer expectations with what your product delivers.

Points of consideration

  1. Each target audience has different pain points, frustrations, and expectations. This varies widely based on the demographics. For example, people over the age of 50 tend to look before they click. However, younger digital natives click around and use the back button frequently.
  2. Users’ expectations differ per product. Let’s take the example of Google Maps vs. Mailchimp. When using Google Maps, a B2C software, you expect to understand how to use it instantly. Once you open the app, you’ll learn as you go. However, with B2B software such as MailChimp, you expect to have some learning curve. 

However, this is not an excuse for B2B software companies to avoid usability testing. It’s even more of a reason for them to focus on it. The SaaS competitive landscape is getting more crowded by the day.

<img src="usability-testing.png" alt="usability testing"/>

Photo Credits Muzli

Imagine you want to run an Automation campaign. You click around for a bit, but can’t find that feature in MailChimp. You’ll likely turn to a competitor. However, MailChimp has that feature – you just couldn’t find it.

It’s difficult to retain customers if they can’t find what they’re looking for. This type of issue is easily solved with a card sorting exercise. Card sorting is when a company has their target demographic organize content into different groups. It ensures that content is grouped intuitively so customers can find items.

While every expectation and interaction is different, there are some common usability expectations and preferences that ring true across every industry, age group, ethnicity, etc. 

For example

  • Older visitors spend more time looking through a product and reading all the information than their younger counterparts. 
  • Younger customers would rather click around than watch a tutorial.
  • People expect universal icons so they can instantly recognize where it leads.
  • People don’t hover over “i” icons are passed over and not read. If you feel the need to use an “i” icon, you’re not explaining the information well. It leads to confusion and increased customer support chats & calls. 
  • Users prefer a usable product rather than one that has more features.
  • Users want to use products that appear friendly & modern. However, they don’t want a pretty design to compromise the user experience of the system.

Products with poor usability have long term repercussions. Products with poor usability will:

  • Decrease customer satisfaction, which leads to declining revenue
  • Increase customer support calls, which leads to higher operating costs
  • Increased customer abandonment rate, which leads to lower sales

Companies that don’t conduct usability tests fall into a similar trap are hurting their growth and bottom line. When done well, usability testing can be performed on a budget, and “every dollar spent on UX will yield $10 to $100 in revenue.”

Organizations that are not user-centric tend to follow this process:

  1. They identify what new features should be built based on what your stakeholders want
  2. A designer will create the solution
  3. The prototype will be shared internally with a small group of people
  4. The solution is developed

The main issue with this process is that the feedback you’re getting is internal. Those people are inherently biased. They won’t critically assess your designs in the way an outsider would.

Also, internal employees know the desired state, which makes guessing what the action should be simple. Think of it this way. You’ve designed the home screen for your application. As the product team and stakeholders, you know about all of the features because you live and breath the product all day.

You may perceive the design as an obvious ad easy to use. However, you’re biased and to entrenched in the product to see it how an outsider does.

What is product-led growth?

Product led growth is when the product itself drives growth. The least talked about topic in product-led growth is incorporating the end-users’ insights. They are the ones actually using the product on a day-to-day basis. They are the ones coping daily with friction points and heavy workflows. Often, their voice is not given the same weight as internal stakeholders have. 

Why is usability testing required for product-led growth?

Intuitive products keep people coming back for  more. They become sticky and essential to your customers. People are inherently lazy. Customers don’t want to expend effort learning how to use a product. They expect every solution to be intuitive and not to require an upfront effort.

We’re living in an era of convenience. Companies like Seamless makes ordering food simple. Netflix allows you to stream all of the content you would ever want to watch. Companies have to build for convenience. If your product has poor usability, users will switch to a competitor quickly. 

You can spend a lot of money on creating marketing campaigns and hiring a sales team. However, if your product has bad UX, you’ll be wasting your money since customers will bounce quickly. Customer acquisition will be high, but retention will be low. That is not scalable, and certainly not consistent with a product-led growth stategy

What quantitative methods are used for product-led growth?

There are many methods used to track product metrics, including event tracking and product analytics. Indicative solutions can be Mixpanel, Amplitude, Gainsight PX and Pendo

With this software, you’ll set up specific events trigger like:

  • Track when the user clicks the account settings button 
  • Track when the user clicks the home button. 
  • Map users’ actions end-to-end

Once all items are tagged, watch the paths the user takes in the product. See where people are dropping off and what their typical workflow looks like. 

By understanding your customers’ journey in the product, you will be able to see which features are underutilized. Imagine you’re creating an accounting software. When you look at your analytics dashboard, you notice that no one is clicking on the Time Tracking tab. At the same time, everyone seems to spend a lot of time in the Invoicing tab.

You can guide feature prioritization decisions with these actionable insights. It may be a good idea for example, to keep building out the Invoicing tab. And consider shifting budgets away from the Time Tracking tab. It also offers room for customer support and marketing improvement. They might not have conveyed the value of your Time Tracking tab.

Product-Led Growth Limitations

While this data is useful, there are some limitations. First and foremost, it’s reverse engineering at its finest. You build the software then you wait for users to learn how to use the software and see how they’re using it.

That’s not very proactive. In our accounting software example, there’s a good chance you wasted a solid amount of money building a Time Tracking tab when there wasn’t market demand.

Every team talks about building things fast and iterating. While this is a good mindset, it can also be detrimental. Developing a new feature involves a lot of time and resources. It’s an expensive and time-consuming process, so if the users don’t like the feature, it could be a massive waste of time and money. That’s why it’s crucial to perform usability testing ahead of product development.

Why is qualitative testing an integral part of the process?

Performing qualitative usability testing short circuits the guessing process. With usability testing, speak to your target demographic right away. Ask them about their pain points, frustrations, motivations, and desires.

Once you understand their pain points, start designing a solution. By understanding their pain points from day one, you will ensure there’s a product-market fit. After validation, have your designer create a prototype. Get your prototype in front of customers early and often. It will help you make educated design decisions.

Usability testing should involve a combination of quantitative tools like Google Analytics, as well as qualitative tools like PlaybookUX. Both are important for creating high growth companies that deliver a product-led GTM strategy.

Lindsey Allard

Lindsey Allard

CEO of PlaybookUX the software that automates UX research.

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