Using Research Data: Usability Tests

When I first started reading about UX and all the research methods you could use to find out what people need, the one thing I could not find much information about was what to do with all the data you end up with. The answer always seemed to be ‘it depends’, which was not really very helpful.

Even when I started working in the field as a designer, I still did not get much of an answer because the opportunity to actually speak to customers was so low, and when I did test with participants we just focused on the main issues.

Now that I am actually working in a company who are really focused on the user I am finally getting answers to my question. And of course part of that answer is ‘it depends’, but if you start with the sort of research you are doing and what you are trying to find out, this will guide you on what to do with the results.

Today I am going to focus on the results from a usability test.

In a standard usability test you are asking someone to do a set of tasks on a website or app to see if they can complete them. This could be in person or a remote session, but the main thing you are looking for is ‘what did they do?’

A usability test is about what you saw the participant doing, not what they said or what you think. So you might think the text is too small on the site but did you see anyone putting their glasses on or leaning forward to try and read it. If not you can’t report it in this section of your report.

So, what did you see?

Now start to think about why that happened - what was the cause?

And is that an issue?

You might have seen everyone stopping at the same point to read some content. It might have really slowed the flow down, but actually it is really important content that they need to understand before they continue which brings us to the conclusion that it is not an issue. You either do not need to report on it or you can add it as a positive thing.

On the other hand you might see many of your participants reach a point where they do not know how to move forward or complete the task. When you look at the cause you find that the wording of the menu does not match what they were looking for or the way the process works does not match their mental model.

If they cannot complete the task then this is an issue and should be reported. If everyone has this problem it makes it more of a priority than an issue that only one or two people experienced.

Understanding these three things; what they did, the cause, and what level of issue it is, all help to prioritise and come up with a solution to the problem, so you need to fully understand what happened and why.

Only once you understand the problem can you come up with a solution that will really work.