Sometimes the best way to nail down a complex concept is to tackle it from a funny angle. Blink Ux did exactly that when they decided to run a usability test of fruit. It’s a real moderated testing scenario with interviewer, subjects and… fruit. Have a look (and a laugh).
We could see a few methods, so let’s have a quick look at them:
Task-Based Usability Testing
As the name already suggests, users are ask to complete a series of tasks during the test which have been prepared beforehand. The time and difficulty to perform the task can be measured and compared against benchmarks. Sometimes no tasks are given and the user is asked to explore the product (application, website…) as he/she goes. Basically the two methods are used in different stages and for different purposes. No tasks allow for a more exploratory approach to find difficulties in the design while tasks-based testing is great to uncover problems (or no problems) in specific features.
Think aloud protocol
In a thinking aloud test, you ask test participants to use the system while continuously thinking out loud — that is, simply verbalizing their thoughts as they move through the user interface. This method has a series of advantages. It is cheap, easy to learn and flexible. Basically you tap into the mind of the user to uncover misconceptions which usually turn into actionable redesign recommendations.
First user experience
Also here the name already suggests that this is the first experience a user has with a product. As with every first experience people try to make sense of it by referring to mental models and interpretations that allows them to understand the experience. First reactions give important insights about a product. Do people understand what it is about? Do they intuitively know how to use this product?
Eye tracking is the process of measuring either the point of gaze or the motion of an eye of a test user. On a screen our eyes move in a certain way so designers place important information were people are most likely to look. Eye tracking result however can be very ambiguous. For instance, what does it mean when someone spends a lot of time looking at something? Does it mean he finds it appealing? Or is he just having a hard time understanding it? Many professionals in the field recommend that eye-tracking data should only be used as supplemental information.
Post session questionnaire collect immediate feedback from the test users. They are primarily used to assess user satisfaction but they can also be oriented specifically to evaluate broader emotional impact and usefulness of the design.
There are many more methods to test a product. When to choose which method depends on what you want to test and at which stage you are with your product. If this is a bit unclear to you, Jeff Sauro over at Measuring Usability wrote What methods to use and when to use them, where he lists up a series of popular methods in UX design and explains when to use them.