Why usability testing should be embedded early in your product development


Usability testing involves sharing an existing product, prototype or design with research participants and taking them through a series of tasks and questions. This enables you to gather feedback direct from those most important – your target users. Helping to gather key insights all the way from the core product principles such as: the usability of your product, areas of confusion or missing functionality, whether users are able to complete key tasks and how they navigate, through to content and layout feedback. 


Usability testing can be conducted with designs of varying levels of fidelity, from initial wireframe ideas all the way through to fully developed products. So why test early? Testing early has an array of advantages which mean you not only save time and money but also ensure you achieve a best-in-class customer experience from the get go. We advise our clients that an iterative research-led approach is recommended across all projects; throughout which we use a variety of research methods to support different stages. We’ve compiled our top 4 reasons we often share with our clients for conducting usability testing early below.


1. It's easier to try, adapt and update

Conducting testing at the wireframe stage means more flexibility to be open to changes of any scale, maximising the benefit from testing sessions. If something fails the first time around, being able to highlight and identify the issue early on means you’re able to easily adjust and retest prior to development, saving both time and money.


2. Design decisions are directed by real user feedback

Most design and product teams will have heard the old adage ‘you are not your user’ and in almost all cases this is true. Conducting testing with real users brings project team members in contact with the people for whom they create products, enabling them to gain a new perspective on their work outside of any assumptions or biases. This is significant since being familiar with a product can lead to features and problems being overlooked.


Designers, product owners, developers, and stakeholders frequently bring their own ideas and assumptions to the table, resulting in unending debates. Early and frequent testing can help avoid this, as well as ensure the product you take to market is tailored to your user from the get-go. 


3. It compels teams to make decisions and finish tasks with reduced risk

Setting dates for testing sessions means deadlines must be met and project momentum is maintained. This is advantageous since it forces design decisions to be made. There may be times where stakeholders are split on how a feature should be presented or design teams on the most intuitive structure. Testing early lowers the consequence of these decisions, making it much easier to select and mock up one or both options and be guided by user feedback on the correct route to take, opposed to finding out a critical decision is wrong post-development at huge risk of time and money.


4. It encourages experience design

Creating prototypes and conducting usability testing with users ensures that designs are thought of in terms of flows and consumer journeys rather than single displays. An easy to follow and intuitive journey can make or break your customer satisfaction.


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