Formative Evaluation Defined

In the modern business world, a formative evaluation or assessment is the basic assessment of a product which is conducted even before the production process is complete. This basic process allows the manufacturers of the product to properly check any flaws, and decide whether this product delivers everything that was expected or it needs to be altered.

It is important to understand that a formative assessment differs from a summative assessment. The latter is performed once the production is complete, and the product is completely ready to be sold. Most of the time, a formative assessment is performed by the manufacturers of the product themselves. It may even be performed by some other staff members who have vast knowledge of the expected outcomes.

Role of Formative Evaluation

Every time a business organization decides to manufacture a new product, it needs to make sure that the product serves the basic purpose for which it was designed. The company also needs to make sure that the product meets various quality control standards maintained in the industry.

This process requires careful testing which needs to be done before a product is ready to be sold. Once the product hits the stores, the company can’t do much to rectify the problems without harming its reputation. Due to this, a formative assessment is an important step in the production process to assure only high quality products reach the consumers.

When is Formative Evaluation Necessary?

When a business organization conducts a formative assessment, it takes steps during the production process. At different stages of the process, the company needs to check if the new product is meeting the desired objectives. In case the company notices any problems, some steps can be taken to eliminate certain problems.

Once proper adjustments have been made, the company performs more evaluation. The process continues until the new product has met the desired objectives set by the production team. Due to this, the process of formative assessment is in direct contrast to summative assessment, which is a different part of the production process.

In most cases, summative assessment is conducted once the entire project is complete. Although changes are not feasible at this point, the company can still learn more lessons from summative evaluation. This can instruct the company in some future endeavors. A professional and reputed business organization will perform both summative and formative evaluations.

Formative Evaluation – Importance in Usability Evaluation 

Formative evaluation is one of the core concepts in usability evaluation. In fact, it is one of the methods for usability evaluation which helps form the basic design for a service or product. It involves evaluating a service or product during development, with the goal of identifying and eliminating usability problems.

When it comes to formative assessment, the audience for recommendations and observations is the project team itself. The information obtained from the assessment is used to improve the usability of the service or product. Some common methods used for formative assessment include user interface inspections, heuristic evaluation, thinking aloud testing, cognitive walkthrough and pluralistic usability walkthrough.

Objective of Formative Evaluation

According to industry experts, there are a lot of different objectives of formative assessment. A company needs to be sure about meeting these objectives. It is quite obvious that a business organization should be concerned with the quality of its products. It needs to make sure that customers only receive high quality products without any flaws.

In addition to this, a business organization should always watch carefully for some unexpected problems which might not have been considered by the quality control team. Similarly, a company also needs to find out different ways in which the product can be improved. Unexpected contingencies have always been a huge part of formative evaluation, and therefore, they need to be considered.


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.