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4 Key differences between Usability Testing & User Testing

Are these po-tah-to and po-taa-to? Or are these really different?



- Rick, UXaudit.io
5th March 2018

User experience (UX) and Usability has become a game changer for product adoption and sales in this era of digital age. More and more businesses are not only realising the potential of user centred design but are becoming obsessed with just the thought of this. They do not want to give their users any excuse from stop using their products and services because companies spent millions of dollars in acquiring these customers and they do not want them to go away without having served them through their entire customer life cycle. But how can design-led organisations ensure that the end experience delivered to the users does not cut any slack?

Usability testing is a way to see how easy to use something is by testing it with real users. Users are asked to complete tasks, typically while they are being observed by a researcher, to see where they encounter problems and experience confusion.

Usability is nothing but the ease of use of a product/service by its user. Though both the terms 'Usability testing' and 'User testing' seems very similar but I feel there is a slight difference between the two. There are several articles and views which suggest otherwise but in the end it is all about the end experience being delivered to the users.


The ISO defines usability as:

The effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction with which specified users achieve specified goals in particular environments.

There is no clear definition of what user testing is and many experienced designers believe that 'User testing' is nothing but a layman's terms for usability testing as it is not her users who are being tested, it is the product idea which is being tested.

We have identified the 3 key differences between the both:
  1. The kind of audience

    usability testing audience

    Usability testing focusses mainly on increasing the ease of use of a product or an application. It does not constraint on the user segments and target audience. Whereas on the other hand user testing focusses on target audience only. For example, if an app is designed for teenage audience user testing would be done only for the users who are teenagers and their acceptance of the app.

  2. Focus

    user testing focus

    The focus of usability testing is on ease of use whereas user testing focuses on product adoption. Usability testing tries to find an answer to: "Is it intuitive enough to use my application?" whereas user testing finds answers to "Will my target audience use my app?"

  3. Usage

    usability testing validates a design

    Usability testing is used to validate a design whereas user testing can be used to validate an idea. Generally, usability testing would be done at the end of the design phase whereas user testing can begin just after idea brainstorming.

  4. Methods to conduct

    conducting usability testing

    Usability testing techniques: AB preference tests, First click tests, Questionnaire test, First glance test, Prototype tests etc.

    User testing techniques: User Interviews, Contextual Enquiry, Shadowing, User research and surveys.

But then there is 1 which is common..

What is common in both user testing and usability testing is the prime focus on the user and user centered design approach.

usability meme
I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Thanks for your time and feel free to add your comments below and let me know your thoughts about this article.


Author: Rick from UXuadit.io

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