Usability Testing Methods

Tuesday, 24 June 2014 11:39

Dear readers, meet Tatiana Pobylovskaya. Tatiana is a specialist in software testing, and she's decided to share her rich experience with you. Here we present an article of her - Usability testing methods. Enjoy reading!

In my previous article I told you about Card sorting. Let’s continue considering usability testing methods.

Contextual inquiry – a method of structured interviews, which differs from the ordinary, such as journalistic interview, because it has always been built on three basic principles:

  • accounting for context in which the studied application is used.
  • joint evaluation of the application by the user and the developer.
  • focus of evaluation of the application is precisely on its user-friendliness.

Contextual inquiry is one of the alternatives of benchmark testing method, in which comfort is evaluated in the laboratory, not in a familiar user working environment. In the contextual inquiry job, time, motivation, and social factors that affect the user, are the same as in the real world, in contrast to laboratory studies where these factors are controlled by the experimenter.

Contextual inquiry is most applicable to assess the environment in which the product will be used, so it is held in the early stages of its development. The usage of contextual inquiry in conjunction with the benchmark testing is most preferably, while each of these methods separately is less efficient than their population.

For more details look contextual inquiry.


Checklists help to ensure that the application is made ​​according to the principles of functional design. Usually they are used in the final stages of work in addition to expert techniques to structure expertise on some specific features. There are many ready-made checklists, but the decision about the use of a list should depend on the objectives of the study. Often there is a need to develop own quality criteria in a specific area.

For more details look checklists.

Prototyping is creation of a model of the end-product (application), allowing to test its components at any stages of development.

In the process of prototyping a model is constructed, including all test components (design, controls, etc.). It is possible to use various methods of its creation, from the image of elements of the interface on a paper to creation of a working layout of application. There are “horizontal” and “vertical” prototyping.

“Horizontal” prototyping means representation in the model a wide range of application settings, but without detailed analysis. This type of prototyping is preferable to use for the study of user preferences in the interface area. In the course of research clarify, where, according to users, there should be those or other functions, how much they are accessible, etc. “Horizontal” prototyping is used in the early stages of development.

In the “vertical” prototyping the functionality of separate components of the application is researched. For example, when “vertical” prototyping of network database can be studied by its search capabilities; checking of links, download speed, work in different browsers, etc. is not carried out. Since this kind of prototyping requires a detailed study of a small sector of application, it should be done only after completion of the testing sector.


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