Introduction: Why mobile usability testing is important
The term “mobile usability testing” may sound like a relatively new concept, but it’s not. In fact, the first time this idea was discussed in an academic setting was in 1992. With the rise in mobile usage and how connected we are to the Internet through our mobile devices, it is vital that we utilize this form of research when preparing any new app or website for launch.
What is mobile usability testing?
Mobile usability testing is a user experience research technique for assessing the effectiveness of a product’s interface on mobile devices. With more than 1 billion people now using smartphones, designing for mobile is now the norm.
Mobile usability testing seeks to understand how users interact with a product through their mobile device. Mobile usability testing aims to determine if a product is easy to use, meets user expectations, and accomplishes the task the user has in mind. Traditionally, users are asked to go through certain pre-defined tasks or tasks specific to the application’s design. The participant is then surveyed about their experience with the app. It is often done on the go, usually outside the office, and typically on-location at customer sites or off-site facilities.
Why do you need to do mobile usability testing?
Mobile usability testing is an essential part of any design process and is critical to your business. With the rapid growth of mobile devices and the complexity of their use, issues such as navigation, page load times, and input fields are becoming more widespread. This testing aims to determine what aspects need to be improved or changed for a user to have a better experience with the design.
Mobile and tablet usability testing could be even more important than computer-based usability testing. The main reasons for this are:
- People generally spend more time using their mobile devices to visit certain types of sites than they do using their computers.
- Mobile users have different motivations and expectations than desktop users, and they have different limitations. Companies must stay current with these considerations to deliver a competitive user experience.
- The platform users access your site with is far less predictable when using mobile phones. Computer-based site visitors generally only differ from one another in their browser and operating system (i.e., most people will use a screen, mouse and keyboard). In contrast, the different types of mobile phones and tablets differ can drastically.
Mobile usability testing is essential for any organization designing, developing, and optimizing mobile apps. Mobile has become a vital tool in the arsenal of digital marketers and designers looking for ways to create a seamless user experience on any device.
What are the benefits of doing mobile usability testing?
Mobile usability testing is a great way to ensure a mobile site or app is easy to use and provides a positive user experience. It also enables you to make informed decisions about design and development. It does this by simulating the user experience on a mobile device while asking the participants their perceptions of the site or app. It minimizes the risk of making assumptions about how users should use a product and forces us to observe what they actually do. This increases the validity of our findings because we can show how people use the products rather than guessing their behavior based on what we think they might do. In addition, it will provide valuable data that can be used to identify usability problems with the product. One of the most significant advantages of mobile usability testing is that it can provide timely feedback on how an app or website works on different devices. These elements will allow you to fix usability issues and improve the site or app before reaching your audience, preventing potential customer dissatisfaction with the app. It also provides valuable insight into common mistakes people have while using apps, which helps developers learn how to improve their products.
Doing mobile usability testing is essential to the success of any mobile app. Achieving genuine usability with a mobile device can be difficult, if not impossible, so those designing and developing the app must take the time to test their work thoroughly before releasing it for public use. Doing so will ensure that the app is as fluid as possible and users are comfortable using it.
Ultimately, mobile usability testing helps you know what your users want, and as a result, deliver the right solutions for them.
When should you do testing?
A mobile usability test is usually conducted at the end of the design phase or before the product’s final release. A mobile usability test can be done on an existing product, prototype, or on new features planned for an upcoming release.
Why is it important to test on real devices?
It is essential to do mobile usability testing on real devices because it can be challenging to replicate user experience with emulators or web simulations. Doing usability testing on real devices also allows the tester to observe what users see (clicks, swipes, scrolling) and how they use their fingers to interact with the device.
It is also essential to conduct usability testing on real devices because they allow consumers to understand how a product would work in their daily lives versus hypothetically.
What are the different types of mobile usability testing?
There are several different types of mobile usability testing methods. The most common practice is to run a usability test using the target end-user in person to observe how they interact with an app or website on their phone (Field Testing on the spot). Another option is to have the subject use the app/website from a computer and provide feedback through video chat, which can be recorded for later review (Remote Testing via an online tool). Field testing is often preferred as it allows for more detailed observations of the user’s environment and behavior than this type of research could achieve remotely.
The process of usability testing on mobile devices: How to do it
We live in a mobile-first world, so companies need to ensure their products and services work well across mobile devices. So, the question is: how do you go about usability testing your application or website on a mobile device? The answer is that there’s no one perfect way to do this, as there are many different types of testing that can be done for various purposes.
Mobile usability testing involves looking at how people use your product and what they think of it. You can get started with mobile usability testing with these five easy steps:
- Define the scope of the project,
- Select participants,
- Identify the test facilitator (i.e., an in-house expert or an outside consultant),
- Do the actual testing,
- Collect data and analyze results.
Your website is not designed to work well on mobile devices if it is not user-friendly!
Which mobile phones and tablets do you need to consider?
Mobile devices for testing should include smartphones and tablets. Mobile phones and tablets can differ dramatically, radically changing how people experience and use websites. Some of the ways in which handheld devices can vary include:
- Screen size (small vs. large)
- Screen layout (portrait vs. landscape)
- Input device (stylus, keypad, voice)
- Operating system (Android, iOS, Windows)
Because the mobile phone/tablet that someone is using will have such a profound effect on their experience of your site, you should try to test with as many mobile phones and tablets as possible.
Of course, testing with every mobile phone and tablet is impossible. It is essential to consider which devices and OSs will be used. iOS and Android are the most common OS’s, while all iOS devices can use iOS for development. Android devices vary by manufacturer, so each will need to be tested. Researching what browser is primarily used on a specific OS can also help determine if an OS-specific test should be done. Here are some ideas to help narrow down the number of devices you’ll need to test with:
- Your mobile site visitors may belong to a specific audience. Certain audiences tend to prefer particular types of phones (e.g., phones with big screens designed to support online access vs. small-screen models that aren’t).
- There are “phone families” (such as Samsung Galaxy’s) that offer a very similar user experience (and will not need to be tested individually).
- You may only want to test with the most popular mobile phones or models used to access your site (you can check your site statistics to find out this information).
In addition, you need to consider the physical size of the phone or tablet, battery life, display quality, storage capacity and any other specifications that are important for your UI.
Whom do you want to test with?
The people you want to conduct your mobile phone usability testing sessions with will depend on your particular business and audience. Some things to bear in mind include:
- How much experience they should have of using their mobile phones to access services. This is particularly important as the percentage of people accessing online services through mobile phones grows.
- Which mobile phone or tablet they have. We would usually recommend that people use their mobile phone in a session, so the test can focus on your website and not on the way the device works.
Where should testing sessions be conducted?
Mobile phones and tablets are used in the real world, so mobile devices’ usability testing should not only take place in a usability laboratory. Where, when, and how a mobile phone is used is critical to a person’s experience of accessing the site.
Do you want to run usability testing sessions that represent how most people use the app? Conduct usability testing sessions in places where your target audience spends their time, like home, work, parks, restaurants, and coffee shops. If the test is exploratory, keep it simple by conducting it in one location.
Any of the following circumstances could influence this experience and, therefore, considerations of the site’s usability:
- Background noise
- Concurrent tasks (i.e., anything the person is doing at the same time)
- Physical movement
As such, we’d recommend that mobile usability testing is conducted both in a laboratory and in the ‘real world’ if possible.
How you plan and run mobile phone usability sessions will be based on your business and audience. However, the most popular methods of mobile usability testing include:
- Lab-based (using a camera to record the session)
- Diary-studies (asking people to keep a diary of how they have used their mobile phone and any problems they encounter)
- Paper prototypes (running usability testing on a paper-based version of the site, using mobile phone screen-sized pieces of paper)
In conclusion, mobile usability testing is vital because it can help identify design problems and avoid pitfalls. Testing different devices, platforms, and browsers is necessary to ensure compatibility with all audiences. Not only will this improve user experience, but it will also generate more revenue for your company.
The importance of mobile usability testing cannot be overstated. Mobile users now outnumber desktop users, so it’s critical that you consider their needs when designing your site or app.