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How to Use Usability Testing for UX Design

Posted by VerboliaJanuary 29, 2019

User experience or UX design is increasingly important for websites and product innovation in general.
It is an extension of the user-centered design approach, which is based on the hypothesis that listening to users generates value in use, satisfaction and, by extension, business value.

There’s only one problem: companies don’t have a one-size-fits-all blueprint for the perfect user experience.

Much of the UX design optimization process depends on usability testing to figure out what strategies work and what don’t. Whatever design decision you make, you need to give it time and test it out to see how your users will respond.

Only then will you be able to cut the guesswork and let the numbers speak for themselves.

In this post, we will discuss three strategies that will help you maximize the results you get from usability testing.

1. Start with the Basic Visual Criteria

In recent years, a lot of websites and even search engines put heavy emphasis on the user experience factor.

Loading speed, for example, is a crucial aspect of the user experience that also affects a website’s search engine rankings. And to improve this particular metric, designers developed the habit of stripping visual elements off of web pages.

That’s why many websites nowadays have the same, minimalistic look. There are, however, some developers who take things too far and end up with a website that looks too plain and boring.

Remember, great UX design is the product of understanding how it works and how it looks. It’s not just about having a site that performs well — you also need to pay attention to its aesthetic appeal if you want to captivate your audience.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the basic visual criteria that you need to meet before you plan how to measure the user experience.

Visual Hierarchy

In simple terms, visual hierarchy pertains to the order of presentation of elements in an interface. It’s usually based on the importance of each element relative to the others around it.

From a business perspective, you want users to see your value propositions and the corresponding conversion elements first. These are the call to action or CTA, value proposition, opt-in form, and so on.

Successful Conversion Rate Optimization or CRO campaigns make sure these elements stand out in your design. Other things — be it an ad, irrelevant content card, or excessive visuals — must either be toned down or removed completely.

Contrast and Color Use

Another way to make sure important visual elements stand out is to use colors that contrast well with the background.

Don’t expect your audience to be drawn to your CTA button if it has the same color as everything else.

Take a look at Facebook’s “Sign Up” button to see how proper contrast must be used on important site elements.

While you’re at it, consider utilizing a bit of color psychology to send the right message to your target audience.

Studies show that certain colors have an effect on people’s emotions. Red, for example, raises urgency while blue is often associated with dependability and authority.


For interactive elements on a page, you need to use readable, descriptive language that makes the experience overall more intuitive to users.

Some examples of labels you can use are “Continue,” “Next,” “Save,” “Download,” and so on.

Do take note labels for on-page elements aren’t always the same as your CTA. In many cases, the CTA is a discrete element from buttons that visitors actually need to click in order to take action.

Twitter, for instance, has a “Sign Up” button that’s separate from their CTA, which is “Join Twitter today.” The placement of these two elements is important if you want users to associate them with each other.

In addition to the things above, there are other considerations you need when creating your baseline visual criteria:

  • First-Time Visitors
    Is your website friendly to first-time users?
  • Physical Limitations
    For mobile users, will people with large fingers have difficulties with your site?
  • Forms
    Are forms properly labeled? Do they follow a uniform design?

2. Run More Tests With Fewer Users

It’s a common misconception that usability tests require a big budget and hundreds if not thousands of participants.

Research by Jakob Nielsen and Tom Landauer of Nielsen Norman Group that running small tests with no more than five users at a time is the way to go.

They developed the following formula to measure the number of usability problems to be found in a test with n as the number of users:

N (1-(1- L ) n )

With zero test users, you will naturally get zero data. But once you get at least one test user, you may unveil roughly a third of all obtainable insights — peaking to 85 percent with five test participants.

Using the formula, the research also concluded that adding more users will only diminish the efficiency of your test since most succeeding users won’t discover anything you don’t already know. So, rather than spending money on a single test with hundreds of participants, you should invest in multiple tests with only up to five users.

3. Design With Experience In Mind

According to Marc Hassenzhal’s “Model of User Experience,” users associate certain attributes to the product or service during their experience. These are manipulation, identification, stimulation, and evocation.

  • Manipulation
    The manipulation attribute pertains to how users can bend and utilize the core features of a product as they wish.
  • Identification
    Identification, on the other hand, is all about the user’s ability to convey their identity to the software and everyone else. Account creation is a basic example of how this attribute can be applied.
  • Stimulation
    When designing a website, it’s tempting to eliminate aspects that are barely accessed by users. Doing so, however, eliminates the rewarding stimulation experienced by those who may eventually discover them.
  • Evocation
    Finally, evocation in Hassenzahl’s model refers to the use of visual elements that help users revisit past experiences through memory.

How can web designer’s instill these attributes into their project? Hassenzahl’s model reveals four features that designers can focus on: content, presentation, functionality, and interaction.

However, there’s a catch.

Even if you manage to provide the attributes mentioned above to users, their experience is also largely affected by their specific situation.

You may provide the exact same product features to all of them. But at the end of the day, not everyone will have the same goals with your website — you can only devise multiple experiences for specific audience personas and tailor your site’s features to their needs.

This is where the insights you collected in your usability tests can be put to use.

Once you have a deeper understanding of your user’s needs, you can align specific landing pages of your website to the right audience by optimizing your traffic acquisition channels. Search engine traffic for a certain keyword, for example, has an intent that you must cater to by providing the right content.

This, of course, could involve going back to square one. You need to start with keyword research, landing page optimization, ongoing monitoring, and so forth.

You can also use AI to your advantage with Verbolia. All you need to do is integrate the platform into your website and let the NLP or Natural Language Processing engine design landing pages based on your target audience’s needs.


Usability testing for UX design can be difficult, but it’s not rocket science.

The strategies above will help any company succeed in their usability testing efforts. Remember, you just need baseline visual criteria, focus on more tests with fewer users, and instill the right site features associated with the right attributes from your users’ standpoint. Good luck and Godspeed!