What are the goals of usability testing?

Don’t you hate it when people don’t understand the goals of usability testing? You are gathering awesome insights every week and people don’t know what to do with them. Failing to see the value of usability testing can kill your company because it’s the thing it needs to grow and learn.

But you already know this and just need to transfer this idea to your co-workers and managers. One way of doing this is by knowing exactly what the goals of usability testing are and persuading them with this knowledge.

This article will describe some of these goals and why they are so important growing a business. The key to creating a better user experience starts by pointing all noses in the right direction. Reading this article will tell you exactly what you need to do to address this problem.

Usability testing on a phone

Goal #1: Identify any usability problems

One of the goals of usability testing is identifying problems with your products & services that you would have never found on your own. When a user bumps into a problem while using your service you want to know about it because most people won’t be bothered to notify your organization. They will probably just not use your product or service anymore and start using something else. This means you will lose revenue because of this! 

An example of a situation like this would be on an e-commerce website. Imagine that the buttons on your website the allow you to change the number of items in your shopping cart don’t work. A small business owner lands on your websites and intents to buy 100 of one product because he needs it for his restaurant. Turns out he needs to add the product 100 times because this button doesn’t work. He can’t be asked to do so many actions so he leaves the website and buys 100 products somewhere else.

How are you going to find out that it doesn’t work for him if the button does work on your own system? Turns out he had an older browser that didn’t support this button and a quick fix could be applied. A simple cross-browser test would have prevented this customer from leaving. His restaurant started growing over the years so he buys a lot more products in the future. Too bad he is now doing this on a different website. Let’s try to prevent that from happening!

Solving a complex problem

Goal #2: Collect qualitative data

Another one of the goals of usability testing is gathering qualitative research data. This kind of data is usually focused on insights that are not based on a lot of numbers. It is usually collected in interviews and small focus groups because they allow the researcher to dive deep into the user’s thoughts and actions. 

These kinds of insights help you to come up with ideas and look at problems from a different perspective. They help you with finding starting points for qualitative research. From experience, I know that a hypothesis based on qualitative research has a higher chance of succeeding. Just going off gut feeling thinking you know what’s best usually doesn’t turn out the way you want it.

An example of this could be in a focus group. Within this session, you find out that one of the users doesn’t understand your delivery times. This prompts you to start testing a hypothesis that could solve this problem! 

Furthermore, all of these insights give you a lot more starting points to start researching. A lot of starting points mean that you can prioritize based on what would have the most impact and cost the least amount of time to setup. Making you more effective than just going off on the first thing you come across because research costs a lot of time and money. This just makes sure you are putting all your effort in the right direction.

I must say that discovering insights about your products and services using these methods can be very exciting and motivating. These insights are also great to share with colleagues because it gets people thinking about how to improve your website together as an organization. It’s one of the starting points of growth!

run a usability test

Goal #3: Collect quantitative data

The next goal of usability testing is qualitative’s data counterpart; quantitative data. Methods like ab testing are used for testing hypotheses with valid data. Both of them are still usability testing. Here is a graph from the Nielson Norman Group that describes all the different kinds of usability research methods.

Nielson Norman Group UX research methods

I describe 8 of these research methods in my article about 8 UX research methods to find insights for A/B testing.

This is the kind of research that can give you measurable results and a real impact on your company’s revenue because you are working with a lot of data. Imagine running an ab test on a testing hypothesis and getting a significant result. You measure a lift of 5% conversion rate in a million dollar company. This change will then be implemented giving the company thousands of extra revenue per month.

But there is more than just ab testing because gathering a lot of information through e-mail surveys can also be considered qualitative data if done in the right way. By testing a hypothesis based of thousands of e-mail surveys you can get valid results that are defined as qualitative data. 

You can also run the ab test in the e-mail survey itself if you want to get fancy. The main idea here manage risks based on data acquired by your research. This way your boss knows exactly what he or she is getting into before accepting a chance of the product or service.

Choosing A or B

Goal #4: Participant’s satisfaction

Another one of the goals of usability testing is measuring the participants satisfaction of your product. There are many methods of gathering such a number but the one I like to use is the NPS score. Routinely gathering this number give you a clue of what people generally think of your brand and see if you are still sailing in the right direction with your company.

Satisfaction of your users

The net-promoter-score or NPS is a score from 0 to 10. With this score you can measure the willingness of people to share your product or service. 

When users give you a score of 6 or lower they are considered detractors. They have a negative association with your brand. If you want to increase your score with the users you will need to proactively solve their problems.

Users that give you are score of 7 till 8 are considered passive users. They consider your company to be alright but are still susceptible to competitors.

Finally, you have the users give you a score of 9 till 10. These users are usually loyal to your brand and are more susceptible to e-mail marketing tactics. They are also most likely to promote your brand through word of mouth. Check out this awesome illustration from Netigate.

NPS score

Goal #5: Setting benchmarks and comparing

The sixth goal of usability testing is setting benchmarks. You can look at how your product or service is performing within the market compared to your competitors. Look at how your different pages are converting to see what your drop-off rates are and monitor those on a weekly basis. You need to know exactly how your product or service is performing in every aspect you can think of.

This helps you by always keeping a bird’s eye view of where you are going with your organization and make adjustments where needed. This is a lot easier if you are measuring everything. The reality is that not all changes can be controlled and therefore you might not be able to measure the effect of a particular change. Exterior changes will also be unexpected so having your measuring in place will help you spot problems faster. It also gives you more data to compare your situation with the past. You will know what changes are normal and what changes are probably because of some problem or bug.

Bench(marked) with snow hehe

Goal #6: Learning and growing your organization

Learning helps you grow as a person and the same applies to organizations. Usability testing helps you learn from the organization’s mistakes and be more prepared for the future.

Organizations will grow on their own but to keep growing you will need to keep innovating or stay behind and go bankrupt. With usability testing, you are able to stay ahead of your competitors by constantly changing your product or service to meet the needs of a user. This need is constantly changing to it’s important to keep researching all the time.

How do you think that big brands are always coming up with new products and ideas? This is because they are constantly researching and developing. Hence the term research and development.

Education and learning

Goal #7: Testing new functionalities

Another goal of usability testing new functionalities before they are launched on this website.

This way you are able to find bugs that you might not have seen yet. These bugs could ruin the users experience the first time they use it. That would make for a bad first impression.

By testing them beforehand you are able to measure exactly what the effect will be. You want to prevent launching changes that would have a negative effect on your site’s performance because you will lose revenue because of it. That would actually shrink your product instead of growing it.

Testing makes sure you protect your product or service from harmful changes. You don’t want multiple co-workers to just come up with stuff that doesn’t actually grow your website and will just cost money.

Testing equipment

Goal #8: Managing risks

By measuring all your changes you are able to manage the risks of making changes. You won’t always have a significant result and sometimes it can be interesting to take a risk, based on the confidence interval compared to your baseline.

Imagine looking at the results of a test and the variant has a confidence interval of 8% – 8,20%. The baseline of the control is 8,03%. The results were not significant but this is still an interesting change. It could go either way but has the highest change landing on the +0,17% spectrum. You only have a -0,3% risk so this would probably still be an interesting change.

By testing your changes you have the numbers to make a calculated risk!

Biting a pencil because you are taking a risk after usability testing


I hope you have enough ammunition to persuade the people around you that usability testing is important and has a lot of goals. So go out there and tell people why usability testing is important! Or just share them this article if you want to save yourself the time from rambling. If there are any questions you can leave them down in the comment section below.