Mobile Usability testing: What is it and how is it done?

Mobile Usability testing: What is it and how is it done?

| January 21, 2021

It goes without saying that the usage of smartphones has been soaring all around the globe. In fact, a report by Statista suggests that the overall count of mobile phones all over the world is expected to be a whopping 3.8 billion by 2021 which is around half of the world’s population.

Also, around 80% of the total time spent on mobile phones is dedicated to mobile apps. It’s natural that with so many eyes glued onto smartphones, there are thousands – if not millions – of mobile applications that are created every day and most of them fail to become popular.

The pitfall lies between a poorly designed application and the diverse usability levels that most users don’t agree to accept. Hence, it’s important for developers to create a sleek design with a seamless user interface. This creates a need to perform thorough testing of mobile applications and their usability.

In this article, we will discuss how we can perform mobile usability testing that would enable us to create applications that live up to the user’s standards.

What is mobile usability testing?

In broad terms, mobile usability testing helps us to make sure that our users can meet their goals with our applications easily. It involves inviting test participants representing our future users to perform tasks on our prototype application in a controlled and monitored environment.

Similar to all other aspects of UI/UX designs, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that you can adopt to perform mobile usability testing. Your idea of mobile usability testing should depend largely on the products and resources that you have. However, it should always revolve around the main idea which is to reach the user’s standards and this should prove to be true for any product.

Let’s suppose, we have an application for a ticket reservation system. Now, every second is critical when we try to book tickets using such an application. This means that a bug related to user experience or a complex feature that goes beyond user standards can be quite frustrating for users.

Hence, it’s very important that the application goes through comprehensive usability testing before its launch. The best way to ensure that it caters to user’s requirements is to let the users perform the testing. This is exactly what we do in mobile usability testing. 

While it’s true that mobile and web usability testing follows the same lines for most of the part, the main difference between them is the actual implementation of the tasks and testing plans. Apart from planning, the reporting and the test works remain the same. 

You will need to strategize on the following steps to create a perfect mobile usability testing plan for your prototype.

  1. Objectives of the usability test.
  2. Setting up the tasks.
  3. Creating the test documentation.
  4. Finding the right test participants.
  5. Conducting the test.
  6. Reporting the results.

Let’s have a look at each of these, step-by-step.

1. Objectives of the usability test.

The first step of your mobile usability testing should be to set your goals straight. The question arises, how you can set your goals?

You can start by preparing and asking several questions to your stakeholders. This also includes the developers which would help you to explore some important areas.

  • The roadmap of your application.
  • Targeted audience.
  • Competitors of your product.
  • Research to be performed, features that need to be tested, and its potential impact.
  • Scope of the product.

By asking these questions, to your stakeholder, you will get a clear view of what they know and what they want. You can now start working on identifying your goals and metrics to achieve them. 

2. Setting up the tasks.

Once you know what features to be tested, the next step is to start assigning the tasks to your test participants. Tasks are basically, the interactions that are to be performed by the test participants. It includes setting up test scenarios and organizing the sequence in which the test steps need to be executed. Each test scenario should be well-crafted and should reflect all the set of actions that a user will tend to perform. 

Some examples of such tasks include registering and logging into an account, uploading or downloading media files, browsing through a page, etc. and they are mostly specific to the type of application.

It also involves deciding the set of tools to be adopted which can easily highlight the issues. The type of tool which you need to adopt depends largely on the following factors.

  • Creating recorded sessions of the tests along with screenshots of the bugs.
  • Tools that can support multiple OS-device combinations with multiple screen resolutions.
  • Integration with other CI/CD tools.
  • Generation of comprehensive test reports.
  • Full-page screenshot and availability of touch scrolling. 

Depending upon such factors, you need to decide what features you want to have in your testing tools. Only then, you can decide how to integrate them with your test participants’ devices to get real-time feedback. It’s always preferable for participants to allow them to perform testing on their own devices. 

3. Creating the test documentation.

It’s very important to maintain a piece of detailed information on each test that is conducted. This makes it easier to identify the issues in case a bug pops up. Depending on the methodology you adopt, there are a number of documents that you need to maintain. Typically, the following must be an integral part.

  • A Consent form – stating whether the test participants have their full consent and that they are willing to provide full support to get accurate results.
  • A Post-test questionnaire – which should include questions that help the teams to understand the intuitiveness of the app and find out whether the app offers everything that they claim to.

Let’s suppose, you have a questionnaire where you have answers to some important questions answered by your participants. These questions might include how intuitive your application is, ease of access to features, level of satisfaction, etc. You can use these to enhance the performance or the usability of your applications. 

Such detailed documentation will provide a wealth of information post successful testing which will help you to improve your prototype application.

4. Finding the right test participants.

After strategizing on all the above points, the question arises, who will participate in the test? It will be easier to find the right participants once you have a clear understanding of the type of test you want to perform. It’s key to draw participants based on both behavioural traits and demography. To add value to the product, you must select participants that could represent your target audience.

For on-site tests, development teams can turn to their marketing partners to find the right list of participants.  They can use the social media platform to hire freelancers and It’s also very key to get the stakeholder involved in the whole process. They can provide valuable insights from unexplored areas and it’s always beneficial to gain their trust and commitment.

Some considerations to be taken when selecting the participants are –

  • They should represent the intended target audience.
  • They should own devices that have an OS on which your app is intended to run.
  • Be available at the time of need and frequently when you need to conduct your tests.
  • Be ready to sign the consent form and agree to the compensation terms.
  • Be available at all stages of the application development cycle and maintain confidentiality and have the required expertise with mobile applications.

5. Conducting the test.

There are two widely-adopted methods to conduct mobile usability testing. These are:

  • Laboratory-based testing.
  • Remote testing.

Laboratory-based testing involves real users with real devices. The evaluator has full control to set the tasks. These, however, require a proper setup by the evaluator’s end. Some components include fixed-position and cradle-based cameras, recording software, test facilitators, a perfectly lit venue, etc. While both the methods are effective, however, in-house based testing is always better because it allows the evaluators to capture the tester’s behaviour, reactions, and expressions while using the application. 

6. Reporting the results.

After completing all the test sessions, it’s essential that you go through all the information-packed data, analyze it to get actionable insights from it. It’s always better that you split the data into two parts – 

  • Quantitative data can be used to compute metrics such as success rates, completion rates, error rates, etc.
  • Qualitative data can provide insights such as problems experienced, the path taken by the participants, and analyze the answers that were provided in the questionnaire and debriefing sessions.

Following is the structure that has been proved to be effective for reporting.

  1. Providing a Background Summary containing answers to the whats, whens, and hows.
  2. The testing methodology containing information such as the task scenarios, metrics used to identify the success ratios, information about the participants, etc.
  3. The test results include both quantitative and qualitative data.
  4. Providing a set of recommendations and findings based on the observations from test results.

How Testsigma can help you?

Mobile usability testing requires designing test scenarios and constant monitoring of all the sets of actions taken by the test participants.

Once, Mobile usability testing has been taken care of and the designs are finalized – it is a good practice to automate the test cases for mobile application testing that might need to be executed multiple times for multiple releases or on multiple devices. For this, you should have a test automation tool that lets you automate on your mobile devices easily without any extra burden on you or on your team.

Testsigma, an automated mobile app testing tool provides you a set of features that can align perfectly with your mobile application testing requirements. It allows you to perform automated mobile app testing with minimal effort, thanks to its ability to create complex test steps using simple natural language.  It helps you to set up the tasks and monitor the testing environment easily and effectively. 

Some features of theTestsigma tool that will make your mobile application testing easier are:

  • It lets you build automated and stable test environments for mobile applications by allowing you to run test scenarios remotely on 2000+ iOS and Android devices.
  • These devices are available on-demand as they are hosted on the cloud. It allows you to perform parallel automated testing for quick results.
  • You can create comprehensive test cases for UI/UX testing by specifying all the UI identifiers that you want to test to ensure seamless usability of the application.
  • Features such as the generation of drill-down test reports with video recordings and screenshots, bug sharing, integration with CI/CD tools, etc. can make reporting of results easier.

These features can surely help you build a robust application, that is immune to any bugs related to the usability of the application in the future.

Signup for a free trial of Testsigma and get started with your automated mobile app testing journey.