Usability Testing Methods: Definition & Hallway Usability

Instructor: David Gloag

David has over 40 years of industry experience in software development and information technology and a bachelor of computer science

Comprehensive testing is an important part of product development these days. In this lesson, we'll take a look at usability testing, what it is, methods for doing it, and how it compares to hallway usability.

Passing the Test

We live in a world where simply making a product isn't enough. It must work, and work as expected. For example, do we accept a vehicle that doesn't steer correctly? Do we accept a television whose color is off? Or do we accept a piece of clothing that doesn't fit? Not likely!

It's in our nature to refuse anything that doesn't measure up, or meet a specific need. So how do manufacturers guarantee success? How do they ensure that a product will satisfy customer expectations? They use many forms of testing, of course, and one in particular, usability testing.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing is that part of verification and validation (V&V) that focuses on having actual end users test a product. Its purpose is twofold:

  1. To determine if a product works as planned.
  2. To determine whether a product meets the needs of the target user.

Usability testing is becoming a significant portion of testing strategies today, as manufacturers strive to satisfy every aspect of their customer's needs.

As an example, consider the last time you bought a product at the store, but weren't really sure it was right for you. You took it home and tried it out in the exact situations that the product was meant for. Did you like it? Did it perform as expected? If the answer was no to either question, you take it back. That try-out process is usability testing.


Because usability testing methods are somewhat unique depending on the product being tested, there are many of them out there. Let's talk about the two main categories:

  • Lab-Based - in this category, testing is done a controlled situation, such as a lab, and usability testers go to that lab to perform the testing. For example, a company that builds a software product may set up a lab with several stations that have the software installed, and ask the testers to come to the lab and try it out.
  • Remote - in this category, testing is done on location, such as in the tester's home. The product is question is sent to the tester, who uses it in the actual situation the product was meant to operate in.

Remote testing is done when the environment figures significantly in how the product is used. For example, software manufacturers often use remote usability testing because remote personal computers will differ from those in the office, and the variation can tell them things about how the software reacts to different environments. Remote testing can also be cheaper than organizing and providing the necessary equipment for a lab-based test.

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