Usability evaluation

Usability evaluation, composed of qualitative and quantitative research, is the process of assessing the user-friendliness of a system or product—and whether or not it satisfies users’ needs. Potential goals include simplifying a process, boosting efficiency, and raising awareness of a specific feature.


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What’s the difference between usability evaluation and usability testing? 

While the two terms seem similar, usability testing is actually a form of usability evaluation, among others. Another critical difference is that usability evaluation is completed by experts, based on heuristics, to figure out the “why” behind points of friction. Meanwhile, usability testing centers on user behavior from a non-expert audience. 

What are the methods of usability evaluation? 

  • Usability testing: The most common form of usability evaluation, this is known as the process of evaluating a system or product with target users and gathering their actions, body language, and behavior. 
  • Usability inspection: In this approach, experts evaluate an interface without involving the user. Common types include heuristic evaluation and cognitive walkthrough. 
  • Usability inquiry: This process works to understand users’ thoughts regarding a product but without involving testing. Instead, user feedback is collected through methods like interviews, focus groups, surveys, or field observation. 

What are the best practices for conducting usability evaluation? 

  • Test early and often 
  • Obtain both qualitative and quantitative research 
  • Recruit a diverse range of users 
  • Consider both moderated and unmoderated testing 

When should usability evaluation occur? 

While usability evaluation can be conducted whenever in a product’s lifecycle, the optimal time for you will depend on your budget, goals, and timeline. An option is to get a feel for how your product is perceived post-launch, whether it’s been weeks or months, so you can gauge reactions or determine if redesign efforts are needed. However, ideally, this wouldn’t be the first time you’ve solicited feedback from experts or everyday users in the lifecycle process. 

If a priority is preserving limited resources, opt for going forward with an evaluation early in the design process, so you can validate ideas and prevent costlier changes later on.