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Usability Testing: A Future Perspective

Nowadays, a lot of us have access to technology at our fingertips through smart watches, smart phones or tablets. Because of multiple touch points, having a simple interface and seamless user experience across devices and screens becomes very important. Be it a website or an app, getting the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UX) right, can make or break a product. Complex and hard to navigate UI puts off the first time user and often times that is enough for losing out on a potential customer. This brings us to the question of how to fine tune the usability of a digital product faster, more economically and through the users themselves?

Usability testing has come a long way today, from the early days of spending huge amounts of money on recruitment agencies, setting up testing labs and investing huge amounts of time completing these studies. In the present day there are various platforms like Userzoom, Trymyui, Userlytics and many others that help enterprises perform their usability testing on a large scale, across devices and user demographics at a faster pace, and in an economical manner. The testing process has become easier through these platforms but they have their own limitations in terms of the pool of users, the type of devices in the pool and the geographies which are covered. The biggest question however is – Will the actual end user really test the product?

The future of usability testing may be different from what it is at present. The third party testing platforms might get replaced by the hardware manufacturer, OS vendors, the ISP or the telecom service provider’s own platform. This is very much possible because all the three entities have access to the end user, which is the most important element for getting usability testing done. The other essential thing in onboarding these testers voluntarily is an incentive to test something. At present, the usability testing platforms pay their volunteers for carrying out each test on their personal devices. With the hardware manufacturer or the ISP or the telecom service provider, incentives can be in the form of a device itself or specific amount of free bandwidth or free talk time on the tester’s mobile phone connection.

For example, suppose a new fintech startup wants to launch its money lending app in the UK market, the target end user being college students. In order to get its app usability tested by the end users, they may approach Vodafone, which using its own usability testing platform can acquire the right group of testers and also incentivize them with free talk time or data usage based on the app testing they conduct on their personal devices. Through this the startup gets to reach a larger group of users from their target segment and gets the usability testing done at a rapid pace. They can also expand their usability tests to other markets where Vodafone has a presence.

Now if we look at the same example but this time the startup ties up with a hardware manufacturer. Since it is a mobile app, let’s say the manufacturer is Samsung. Now let’s imagine that Samsung has its own usability testing platforms for its devices right from phones to PCs to smart TVs. They can now help the startup push their app onto all the Samsung devices which sign up for the testing. Samsung might incentivize these testers through its own services like Samsung Pay or might tie up with any local telecom service provider like Vodafone to give away free talk time or internet usage to those who sign up. Through the hardware route the startup can actually get to learn how their app behaves on Samsung’s devices and how users are interacting with the app on mobile phones or PCs or Smart TVs. Scalability of the study won’t be an issue as Samsung is among the top 3 smart phone vendors in the world.

Apple,  Microsoft, or Google, which are OS vendors, can play a huge role in creating usability testing platforms of their own and provide very relevant feedback to owners of digital products like websites or mobile apps. Having a huge coverage worldwide, across device types and screen sizes, these OS vendors may provide the users one of the easiest routes to conduct a comprehensive and high quality usability study. Google or Apple may launch their own usability testing app store where one can test apps and get incentivized by Apple or Google through their other services like iTunes or Play Store.

These possibilities can bring about a huge impact on the usability testing market place and the current platform providers should foresee these to face any disruptions that they may face from the big players like hardware vendors, OS vendors or telecom operators.