7 Reasons Why Early Design Usability Testing is Critical

While usability testing may be carried out at any stage of the design process, early design usability testing is most critical.

This is for many reasons, including saving you rework later on, or building better user acceptance or confidence in your design.

Gartner analyst, Nick Jones, writes that, “Mobile testing is a complex task that is on the critical path for most mobile app projects; its goal isn’t just to remove bugs but to ensure that apps will get good ratings. Organizations seeking to make their testing as efficient and effective as possible”.

When others ask me what the ideal window for usability testing is, I almost always suggest that earlier is better.

Here are 7 reasons why this early usability testing will provide you with significant benefit.

1. Early Testing Involves Far Less Rework

While it seems the most obvious reason for early testing, this is actually one of the reasons which is most overlooked.

Gartner analyst writes that, “Mobile testing is complex because of the many variations of devices, platform versions, screen sizes, user contexts and performance characteristics”.

A change to an initial design stage is always done with less effort than changing a robustly developed HTML page with significant visual designs already incorporated.

Save yourself and your team time and effort and test early to prevent unnecessary overhauls in design.

2. It Will Save on Later Design & Dev Costs

The costs of having a design team or developers involved for later revisions/page iterations will be heavy. These costs can be saved when you bring them together at a wire-frame level earlier in the process.

3. Identify Missing Features  

During early usability testing, missing features will be immediately noticeable.

If your design is unclear or confusing, or if your users become lost in your design, no massive overhaul is required.

You can note which features are of the highest value to your target users and you can find exactly what may be missing from the design itself. Doing this early on will prove far less frustrating than finding out after everything has been perfected.

4. Identify Features That are Most Critical to Users

It is important to note that usability testing tests behaviors, not preferences.

This means that while you think certain design features are critical to your site, your users may see things a little differently. Early usability testing can point out differences between your intended design function, and the behavior of your users. If there are differences between intended functionality and user behavior, it is better to find this out as soon as possible.

5. Build Better User Acceptance

Early testing helps you better understand the acceptance level of users during initial design processes and also gives designers more confidence on their design features since they’ve already been through a batch of testing and received feedback. With this collected feedback, it becomes easier for designers to set achievable targets.

6. Changes can be Made Quickly and Effectively  

Early changes ensure that design changes are quickly done and easy to incorporate. Early design testing allows for feedback on broad navigational issues and overall page layout or structure.

7. Notice Poor Calls-to-Action and Make Early Improvements

Finding out if your call to actions aren’t achieving their goals is critical to making changes to details and design. If your users can’t find what they need, they will leave and find it at a competitors site. Early design gives you time to make changes- such as adding contextual guidance to direct users to the appropriate steps.

Remember, usability testing tests behaviors, not preferences. This is critical to note as you are here to ensure that your brand and company enhances their bottom line. In the market place, usability testing done early and often will help you gain an edge over your competition. It will build confidence in your design team, help you make quick fixes to issues that surface, and help you identify any gaps between intended functionality and user behavior. Early design usability testing done early and often will ensure your business a competitive advantage and less frustration as you progress.


Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.