Usability Testing Case Studies: Validate Assumptions and Build Software with Confidence
We define usability and examine some usability testing case studies to demonstrate the benefits.
As we’ve said before, one of the most important benefits of software prototyping is the early ability to conduct usability testing. The truth of the matter is that no one will use your product if it’s not easy and intuitive or if it doesn’t solve a problem that users have in the first place.
The easiest way to make sure your software project meets these requirements is with usability testing, and the most effective way to implement usability testing early in the development process is with a prototype.
What Is Usability Testing?
Usability testing is the process of studying potential end-users as they interact with a product prototype. Usability testing occurs before you develop and launch a product, and is an essential planning step that can guide a product’s features, functions and purpose. Developing with a clear purpose and research-based data will ensure your goals and plans are in alignment with what an end user wants and needs, and as a result that your product will be more likely to succeed. Usability testing is a type of user research, and like all user research is instrumental in building more informed products that contribute to a business’ long term success.
Intentionally observing real-life people as they interact with a product is an important step in effective user experience design that should not be missed. Without usability testing, it’s very difficult to determine or validate that your product will provide something people are willing to pay for. Companies that don’t invest in this type of upfront testing often create products that are built around their own goals, as opposed to those of their customers, which do not always align. People don’t simply want products just because they exist, and users sometimes approach applications in unexpected ways. Thus, usability testing is key for confidence building during product development.
In this post, we look at a few usability testing examples to illustrate how the process works and why it’s so essential to the overall development process.
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User Testing Case Studies
Usability Testing Case Study #1: Cisco
Usability Testing for User Experience
We worked with Cisco’s developer program group to craft a new, more immersive user experience for Cisco DevNet, their developer resources website. Their usability case study illustrates how we tackled their challenge, and the instrumental role that an effective prototyping strategy played in the process.
The depth and breadth of content on Cisco’s DevNet had spawned hundreds of micro-sites, each with different organizational structures and their own navigation paradigms. Existing visitors to the site would only visit a few specific pages, meaning they were never exposed to newly released tools and technologies. Also, new visitors struggled to discover where to begin or how to find the resources most relevant to them. Users were missing out on a lot of valuable resources, and the user experience was less than ideal.
ClickModel® Usability Testing
Cisco wanted to implement a new user experience to the homepage of DevNet in order to make it easier to dive from the homepage deep within the site’s resources to find information on a particular tool or technology. We were charged with prototyping the proposed user experience, so that Cisco could conduct usability testing with developer focus groups. To build our prototype, we implemented our ClickModel tool.
Confidence to Move Forward with Development
The ClickModel prototype emulated the new site that would appear to users. The prototype prompted insightful feedback from the developer focus groups regarding both the proposed information architecture and the priority and placement of various navigational elements on the homepage and subsequent interior landing pages. The prototype also made it easier to collect feedback on the utility of a proposed color-coding scheme for sorting resources into major technology categories.
This feedback and testing allowed Cisco’s DevNet project to course correct in the Structure, Skeleton, and Surface areas before they spent significant money building in the wrong direction. Cisco took their prototype in-house and moved forward decisively and with confidence to create better resources for the developer community.
DeveloperProgram.com runs developer programs for some of the world’s largest technology and telecoms companies. We rely on our partner Praxent who understands our business, our clients, the developer’s needs, and are able to articulate that into a portal design that is easy to navigate and understand, with the foresight to create an infrastructure that allows for untethered growth. The design team is a pleasure to work with, quickly comprehending our needs and converting that to tangible deliverables, on time and always outstanding.
— Steve Glagow, Executive Vice President • DeveloperProgram.com
Usability Testing Case Study #2: NORCAL
Responsive Data Displays with Usability Testing
In the wake of a corporate merger, NORCAL, a provider of medical professional liability insurance, was looking to build a new online portal. The portal would allow their insurance brokers to review their book of business and track which policyholders were behind on payments. Their billing department was inundated with phone inquiries from brokers who needed information about specific policyholder accounts, which was hindering their ability to attend to important billing tasks.
NORCAL’s insurance brokers are constantly on the go, so it was crucial that the proposed portal not just be accessible by mobile smartphones and tablets, but the portal be optimized specifically for use on those devices.
A native app solution was discussed, but NORCAL determined early on that they wanted to invest in a responsive web application that could be accessed on desktops and mobile devices by both their internal teams and brokers in the field.
Prototyping to the Rescue
The primary user experience challenge tackled during the engagement was how to display complex data tables in a way that would be equally useful on large screen desktop computers as well as handheld smartphone screens. Since multi touch smartphone devices don’t have cursors, they can’t display information using hover states like a desktop computer can.
During the ClickModel process, we prototyped various on- and off-screen methods of data interaction displays for NORCAL’s team to review and test. This provided a few real-life usability testing examples of how they might tackle their problem.
Interacting with the clickable, tappable prototype on both desktop and mobile devices gave NORCAL crucial insight to determine what pieces of data were most essential to be displayed on the smaller smartphone screens and which additional data fields would be displayed only on desktop screens.
The ClickModel iterative prototyping process provided a clear-cut way for stakeholders from billing, marketing, and engineering to communicate effectively about the user experience. This led to important consensus and direction regarding feature requirements and scope, which was able to guide their project as they moved forward.
What Next? Getting Started With Usability Testing Studies for UX
As you can see, there are many benefits of having a prototype that looks, feels and acts real. In the two usability testing case studies above, ClickModel was an effective tool to build such prototypes, and helping clients garner the information and data-backed insight they needed to proceed with confidence. Learn more about our testing process, and how it also leads to reliable project estimates that are so important as you move forward with the development process.