Usability testing

Last updated on
10 November 2016

If you want to run a usability test to help improve Drupal 8 see Drupal 8 usability testing page in the Drupal Usability Group for instructions and session scripts.

In order to make Drupal easier to use, big and small changes are made: functionality is added/ removed, interfaces are redesigned and admin pages are arranged to newer structures. But how do we know that these changes help or hurt Drupal? Do these changes make Drupal ‘usable’?

But these questions spawn another discussion: about perceptions of what is ‘usable’ and ‘easy to use’? This issue is amplified in a community like Drupal because it is so broad and diverse.

So, how do we do this? Simple! Usability testing to the rescue!

What is usability testing? Helps us to make informed decisions

There are several research methodologies to conduct user research. Usability testing is one of them. In fact “usability testing is the second most used evaluation method and the method that has the most impact on making products better”, Rosenbaum, et al (2000).

Usability testing brings together design, technology and psychology principles together. During the test, you have participants represent “real” users, doing “real” tasks. You observe, record and analyze the data. Sounds fun! Doesn’t it?

This data will help us decide if the ‘change’ is an improvement, made it worse or no difference. Besides that, it will also help our community to go beyond individual perceptions of ‘easy to use’ and strengthen our rationale with data. What does all this mean? A more usable Drupal.

How do you run your own usability test?
Are you working on a new UI? Are you working on a new version of that awesome module? Are you designing something new? Then you can run a usability study and make sure that your project provides the intended experience. Conducting usability studies may sound daunting, but in reality it is not. The three things you need to keep in mind:

  1. Know your target audience
  2. Know your design and its intended goal
  3. Listen and observe your users

With some work and reading guides (like this one), you can give back the community the data it needs to make informed design decisions. So, before diving into “How”, let’s answer “When”.

When do I have to do usability testing?

Usability testing is typically performed on major features that significantly affect user experience (both the new users and the existing users). You could test your design at any point during the development cycle. Although not required, it might be valuable for you to get some feedback during the prototype stage and before it is built.

Usability testing might apply to you if:

  • Your change introduces a major new interface element
  • Your interface change classifies as a “critical” or “major” issue
  • Your solution aims to solve an existing “critical” or “major” user experience issue

It will not apply if you have:

  • “Minor” or “Normal” usability bug fixes.