Increase Your Business Metrics with Usability Testing

 “Software alone is no longer a competitive advantage;
great software is.
Great software requires great design”

Andrew Reed, Partner at Sequoia Capital

Usability testing, being one of the design phases, is one of the research methods of user experience (UX) design. This key UX research method allows evaluating (a) to which extent it is easy to use a product, (b) the specifics of user behavior with the product, and (c) customers’ emotions while using the product. The knowledge gained from usability testing plays a role in the growth of business metrics. In the article, we are going to discover what usability testing is, its benefits for business, and which business metrics it influences.

What is Usability Testing

First of all, usability testing conducted by UX designers is your secret weapon and one of a few tools (in addition to A/B tests and data analytics) that will allow your business metrics to grow, your product to be successful, and your clients to be loyal. Of course, you don’t need this secret weapon in case you have your own – 100% accuracy of your intuition.

Speaking in academic language, as we’ve mentioned in our article “UI/UX Design for Startups: Effective and Practical Tips”, Usability Testing is a primary form of qualitative user experience research, which is “based on asking a user to complete certain tasks using your product to reveal pitfalls and sticking points in your product that impair usability”.

Thus, usability testing can tell you (a) whether your product is easy-to-use, convenient, and pleasant to use by your target audience; and (b) what should be improved to make your product better for the end-users.

As Paul Maritz correctly noted, usability testing is “about catching customers in the act, and providing highly relevant and highly contextual information”.

It’s very important to differentiate usability testing from user interviews. They have different goals, and you get different information from them. User interview does not require a user to use your product or to look at the design, and doesn’t answer such questions as whether it is easy to use your product/design, why it is easy or difficult to use your product or design, but rather allows you to hear the thoughts of a user regarding the certain topic (colors used, for example), their perception of the topic, which is not based on their behavior or real experience.

There’re several main types of usability testing – (a) formal in-person; (b) informal remote; and (c) so-called guerilla type of usability testing. The main difference is:

  • in the level of details and accuracy of the results
  • as well as the time
  • assets needed to conduct usability testing

The most accurate results can be received from Informal remote testings – users are not so nervous as they would be meeting you in person in the lab conditions which happens during formal in-person testings. Guerilla tests have less accurate results but they are the fastest and cheapest. The benefit of guerilla testing is that you can conduct it with anyone you can reach in a second and in any place – your wife at home, a colleague during their morning coffee, etc.

Benefits for Business

Experience shows that people who are not aware of the power of usability testing, and therefore, ignore it, avoid it, and consider it to be a loss of money, will face failure and product stagnation at some point. In the absolute majority of cases, products created without usability testing are destined to fail, and in the best-case scenario, they will be average, as opposed to great success.

Instead of considering usability testing as a loss of money, we urge you to consider usability testing as a quick return on investment. Usability testing is the tool that allows for creating a great digital experience that your users expect.

In 2021, AppDynamics and Insight Avenue conducted research “The App Attention Index 2021: Who takes the rap for the app?” where 13,000 consumers were interviewed across the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, Singapore, and the United Arab Emirates.

The Report concludes that “Unless [brands] can consistently deliver world-class digital experiences, then they risk seeing more than half of their customers walk away. And in an ever more competitive market, it won’t be easy to win them back. ”

As it was revealed in the report, today brands have one chance only to impress and keep clients using their apps. 57% of those interviewed said they will not use the app anymore after a bad first-time experience. If users faced a poor experience (in addition to poor usability, slow loading, crashing, errors, etc), 49% of them will switch to an alternative app, 38% will tell other people about their negative experience, and 32% will delete the app permanently.

According to the results of the research, today, when the market offers a huge number of alternatives, consumers become more selective and pay attention to the so-called “total application experience” – they do not (and should not) differentiate between visual, usability, and technical points. Instead, they feel the digital experience as a whole.

In summary, the main benefit of usability testing for companies is the data received during usability testing which will allow you to create:

  • an easy-to-use, intuitive, and simple app (expected by 59% of users);
  • a convenient app (expected by 54% of users);
  • a helpful app serving a specific need (expected by 49% of users);
  • an engaging and fun-to-use app (expected by 34% of users);
  • a personalized app that considers users’ preferences (expected by 33% of users);
  • a valuable app (expected by 32% of users). (Source)

Speaking of specific benefits for the business, usability testing allows you to:

  • save time and money if conducted during the early stages (e.g. design stage) of product development ― it is easier to improve design than to code it from the start.
  • check whether users behave as you intended them to behave;
  • and increase business metrics (each product has its own “north star” metric), including conversion rates, revenue, retention and engagement rates, LTV, MAU and DAU, and others which we are going to discuss below.

Which Business Metrics are Influenced by Usability Testings

From usability testing you get the information about the parts of your functionality that you had doubts or questions about. And this information, obtained as a result of usability testing, is quite accurate and valuable.

Here is an example: we don’t know whether a user can quickly and easily find the account settings in the application if the link to it is in the burger menu. This has to be checked. So we conduct usability testing and as a result, we get the information and the answer to this question.

This way, we can influence any business metric we want – give users different tasks and ask different questions depending on the metric we would like to influence.

A simple practical example looks like this. We start with thinking about the goal we want to reach. For instance, we want to increase the number of trial subscriptions. This means we will ask users to subscribe for a trial. Watching them complete this task can help us understand what users do to reach the goal (trial subscription) and how they do this. For example, do they easily find the way to subscribe – the button which they need to click on? As a next step, we will see how easy it is for them to fill in the subscription form, whether they want to fill it in it at all, and we’ll see the obstacles on their way. Probably, they will find the form too long, or there will be information required but they won’t want to provide it at this trial step (information like their company name e.g.). In the end, we will have very valuable and contextual information which will allow us to enhance the subscription process, making it easier, shorter, etc. resulting in higher conversion rates.

As we’ve already mentioned, usability testing can influence any business metric you want. However, it doesn’t make sense and is even risky to track all the existing metrics since this can give you a false sense of success when you track the wrong metrics. For example, as Ace Elliott correctly noted in Mixpanel, when you are a bank you do not expect users to check their account balance every day, but rather a few times a month. However, when you are a social network, it’s extremely important to track daily active users.

Thus, the tricky thing here is to define several focus metrics which really matter to your business. To be more specific, as Shreyas Doshi (Lead PM at Stripe; former Lead PM at Twitter, Google, Yahoo) admits, it’s necessary to define one “north star” metric and balance it with several more metrics depending on your product, industry, stage of your business or product.

Generally, the majority of companies will have four or five metrics depending on the stage of the user journey – acquisition, activation, retention, engagement (usually – DAU/WAU/MAU), and monetization (usually – revenue) metric. (Source)

Each of the mentioned metrics tells us different things and, as Noa Ganot (Former Head of Product and eBay Israel) says, usually it is retention and monetization metrics that really matter since they indicate that people really want what you create (we would include engagement metrics here as well); while acquisition only shows that users have a problem, and activation shows that users think your product could help them solve their problem.


Concluding, we can definitely tell that usability testing plays one of the most important roles on the way to product success. Worldwide research shows that in today’s highly competitive markets, customers pay lots of attention to their overall user experience with the product and require this experience to be great. Usability testing is a tool that allows businesses to provide this great user experience.

While conducting usability testing we need to be very specific about which metrics we would like to influence with the results of the testing. Moreover, it is super important to apply the correct methodology for conducting usability testing. Otherwise, the testing will be not so effective and in some cases can even decrease your business KPIs.

We’ll talk about the methodology we apply in Elinext in the next articles.

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