How Usability Testing Refines Web Design

We want to find out how users find the website journey in terms of manoeuvrability, smoothness of task completion, user opinion in website design itself, and the problems we encounter along the way.
Woman involved in usability testing on a laptop

What is usability testing?

Usability testing assesses the ease or difficulty in using a website. It tests the user’s journey and the design and functionality of a website design. We conduct usability testing to gain information about user preferences and behaviour. Usability testing isn’t a test on the user, it is an observation on how users interact with the design, prototype or website.

We ask users to perform tasks on our prototype, while monitoring the user’s behaviour. We then watch and ask for feedback. The person conducting the testing (Shah, our UX designer) may also ask questions after a task to gain more insight into a particular choice.

What is the difference between Usability testing and User testing?

The phrases Usability testing and user testing are often used interchangeably, however, they have their differences. They are both a part of UX design – offering a wealth of information about your website, your brand and the users experience and opinion. But how do they differ?

Hotjar, a usability testing tool provider, offer this explanation:
“User testing is a research method that uses real people to evaluate a product or service by observing their interactions and gathering feedback… Usability testing on the other hand, has a more focused approached.” (

User testing can give you information about user opinions and feelings about your company and product – how you are perceived by your users and what their needs are.

Usability testing is more specific to the user journey and uncovering decisions taken to get to a specific place – by making tasks for the user to follow, usability testing can highlight problems such as bugs, can show the journey a user takes to get to specific places, and show you how they navigate, even if it isn’t the journey you had in mind.

Why usability test?

The feedback gained from usability testing influences the choices in design and programming. It improves the website as it is based on research and feedback and does not make assumptions on behaviour when people encounter a button or a menu item, for example.

Benefits of usability testing include:

  • Learn user behaviour and preferences
  • Discover opportunities to improve the design
  • Identifies flaws you may have overlooked
  • Validates your prototype concept, makes sure your website meets expectations
  • Saves work later when your click rates or conversions aren’t performing.

We identify pain points in the customer journey and overcome these before the website is complete, giving a much higher possible level of engagement in the website and user experience.

Fair and best practice testing


The facilitator needs to control variables to ensure fair testing. There are variables we need to consider, such as:

  • The directions given for the task. These need to be similar so the findings aren’t skewed.
  • The devices being used. The conditions of the testing need to be the same for everyone so additional levels of difficulty aren’t added in (a computer they are used to using for example)


We like to choose realistic test subjects to participate in testing. It is imperative that a website attracts your identified target market – why not invite people who will use your website to participate in usability testing to provide an authentic experience?



We keep our tasks as simple as possible while not giving any hints as to how to do it. Keeping tasks vague and unbiased in terms of user journey is necessary. Choose vague statements such as “Find more details on our bestselling products and choose one to purchase” instead of “Select bestsellers in the navigation bar and select add to basket”. This will make sure the tester is not influenced by the path we wish them to take – they make their own choice, and we get honest feedback.


The goal of usability testing for a web designer is to understand how real users are going to interact with your new website, gather test data and make changes based on the test results. Gathering insights from usability testing is important because we want to validate that your new website is easy to navigate and users have a positive experience.  This will help to improve understanding of user needs, determine user retention and, overall, your carefully designed website will encourage a positive brand experience.

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