How to conduct usability testing and improve the performance of a mobile application?

At all stages of the life of a mobile application, it is important to work on improving the product, because a quality product attracts more users and retains them, preventing them from leaving for competitors. High-quality usability testing allows you to correct shortcomings and improve the operation of the application. We tell you when you should conduct usability testing and what are the nuances of working with them.

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What is usability and why test it?

Usability is a measure of how comfortable an interface is to use. It can be any system interface for user interaction – a website, an operating system, a CRM, a mobile application. 

Usability testing is directly related to improving the functionality of this system. It allows you to check the ease of user interaction with the interface, identify errors in the system, determine how user-friendly it is, and find out whether working with it leads to targeted actions. 

The final target action in the online store application can be the purchase of a product or service.

We offer an action plan for conducting usability testing on the example of retailers, however, it may be suitable for other projects.

How and when to test?

We recommend doing usability testing at every stage of the product lifecycle:

  1. On development stage. During the development process, internal usability testing is carried out before the release of the application. It avoids the huge cost of fixing bugs after the application is launched. 
  2. During the soft launch. Further testing is carried out during a soft launch (soft-launch) on a small share of the target audience in order to check the performance of the application and its entire infrastructure. The data obtained during the soft-launch stage is extremely important for preparing a better update for a full launch. 
  3. After launching the application. When a stable build is ready, the previous two testing phases become part of a continuous product update cycle throughout the lifetime of the application.
We have collected possible usability testing options that fit the main stages of creating an application. You can select one or more from the list and apply it to optimize your mobile app.

Stage 1. Development, prototyping and internal tests

At this stage, it is important to identify as many potential errors in the operation of the mobile application as possible in order to avoid negative user ratings in the future. You can identify the shortcomings of the application using special tools:

Testing with the Mockplus Service

The tool quickly prototypes a mobile application right inside the system using an easily customizable user interface library.

It also allows you to see how your future mobile app prototypes will look on iPhone, iPad or Android devices. The service saves a lot of time and money when creating an application interface design.
conduct usability testing

Customer Journey Map (CJM)

The easiest way to identify errors in the application is to go through the user’s path yourself and build a customer journey map. Here you will need to complete the entire list of actions available to the user: from registering in the application to paying for the goods.

CJM can be sent to your internal testers. Get feedback from them, analyze the comments, fix the problem, and test again.

Testing by a group of users

The most common way of usability testing is to involve people who are not related to the development of the application. We conduct a similar testing option at MediaNation: agency employees who are not part of the development team try out the role of a user and test the application. There are several stages of testing by a group of users:

1. Creation of a scenario for testing. It is necessary to clearly describe the task for the user. For example: “buy running shoes in your size in blue.”

2. Testing.  Testing is carried out on a small group of 6-8 people. Participants should not participate in the development of the application, so that their opinion is not biased. The user needs to register in the application, use the filters and select the appropriate products. 

It is necessary to record what difficulties the user encountered, so that later it would be easier to analyze the result. An observer familiar with the functionality of the application can participate in testing. However, he should not tell other participants how to perform this or that action, so that the results are reliable.

3. Analysis of the results. After testing, it is necessary to understand whether the original goal was achieved, whether there was a departure from the target result, whether there was confusion with navigation, how much time users had to spend to achieve the goal and what steps they took in doing so. 

Did users easily navigate through the application screens? What mistakes did they encounter and when? 

4. Formulation of conclusions. Based on the results obtained, it is necessary to identify the most important shortcomings and begin to eliminate them.

Android Studio Device Emulator

When conducting usability testing, it is necessary to check the performance of the application on a huge number of devices of various models – smartphones, tablets, etc. This presents a challenge for testers: testing on each device is time consuming and quite costly.

Google created a service that mimics Android devices on your computer so you can test your app on different devices and Android API levels.

The emulator provides almost all the features of a real Android device. You can simulate incoming phone calls and text messages, various network speeds, rotation and other hardware sensors; indicate the location of the device; access the Google Play Store and more.

Stage 2. Soft launch, receiving feedback from the first users of the application. 

At this stage, the main task is to analyze the behavior of real users. Based on their actions, you can make decisions to improve the usability of the application.

Online services for usability testing 

We have selected five online tools to improve the usability of the mobile application. They are paid, but some services provide a trial period that allows you to test all the necessary functions:

1.Usertesting .  The service allows you to get accurate information about the actions of users while using your product. After testing, you will receive feedback on the application from real people in the form of a short video or text. This will let you know what consumers like and dislike.

2. Usabilla .  It is one of the most popular usability testing services. It also, like UserTesting, allows you to collect feedback from real users.

3.Userlytics .  The service allows you to select test participants, as well as describe in detail the action plan for testers. You can also watch a video of how participants interact with the app.

4. Mixpanel .  The service allows you to analyze trends in user behavior, provides access to an analysis of the frequency of targeted actions performed, the growth of key user groups (for example, experienced users) and compares current results with previous ones.

. UserX . UserX records the actions of users of a mobile application in video format using the SDK (SDK allows you to transmit data about events in the application, without it it is impossible to track the actions that people perform in the application). 

For the service to work, you need to install the SDK code into your application with the help of developers. According to the creators, the service is completely safe: UserX automatically hides password fields and provides the ability to hide any fields and screens with users’ personal data. All data is stored and transmitted in encrypted form, and only you have access to the video.

Testing with the Retentioneering Library

Another way we use usability testing is at MediaNation. We visualize user actions using event data from the analytical system.

Retentioneering solves this problem – it is an open-source Python library for product and marketing analysis. It simplifies the processing of click streams and events, and also determines the trajectories of user actions on the screens of an application or site using information from event logs. The tool can be used by any marketer with basic knowledge of programming.

The Retentioneering library helps to identify problem areas in the application to optimize UX / UI for target users and increase conversion to the right events. Full documentation can be found at the link .

For example, you can create a user transition map with the most important events for the client: 

conduct usability testing

We performed similar work for our client, an insurance company.
Based on the diagram, you can make hypotheses about user behavior: 

  • What’s stopping you from converting? 
  • Are the functions of the application working correctly?
  • At what point in the app transition do users leave?

Select the most important events for yourself and analyze them.

Another way to visualize data can be to divide users into clusters.

conduct usability testing

Users with a similar behavior model are grouped into clusters. Next, we evaluate the conversion by target events relative to the number of users that make up the cluster.

Clusters can be interacted with: compared with each other or studied separately.

conduct usability testing

With the help of the Retentioneering library, you can work with data and explore user behavior in different ways. We have shown only a few ways.

After internal tests before the release and after the soft-launch, we make the necessary changes and get a stable version of the application. You can attract traffic to it and further collect feedback from users. 

Already regarding the operation of the application, the product team will make decisions on the introduction of new features to effectively achieve business goals.

General recommendations for optimizing interfaces

We have collected the most important recommendations, following which you can optimize the interface of your application and increase conversion:

Switching to the mobile version of the site

When moving from a mobile application to a website, it is important to minimize the interface change. The user should not get lost in the new window. 

To eliminate the inconvenience, it is necessary to notify the user about the transition, make the site and application design unified, and speed up the loading of the mobile version of the site – the optimal loading speed is considered to be two seconds or less. 

conduct usability testing

Back button

It is very important to make pressing the back button logical and intuitive. The button should not redirect the user to the main screen and force them to find the desired section again. Ideally, the back button takes the user back to the previous page of the application. 

conduct usability testing

Users expect in-app search to be as convenient as in-browser search. To do this, add the following functions:

  • Automatic error correction;
  • Hints when entering text in a drop-down list;
  • Saving previous requests.

This will speed up and simplify the conversion. For example, the Many application offers products that the user may be interested in, and saves a history of requests.

conduct usability testing

Add filters and sorting options

Often a user comes to an online store for a specific product. He does not want to look for the same product for hours. Filters and the ability to sort will simplify this task by excluding inappropriate products:

conduct usability testing

State the benefits of registering

Many applications require registration, but not all users want to share their personal data. Indicate what benefit the user will receive if he registers. This may be a special bonus program or a discount on the first order for authorized users. 

conduct usability testing

Make signing up and logging into the app as easy as possible

Quite often, the bottleneck in the sales funnel is the app login page. Poor design or technical issues on this page will weed out many users. Add several registration methods (by e-mail or phone number) and the ability to recover credentials:

Also, encourage users to sign up for the app with credentials from other services, such as social networks, a Google account, or an Apple ID.

Remember that application testing never ends. Come up with something new, test ideas with available tools and create a better version of the product for users.

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