Chapter 8

Usability testing tools: Choosing the right one for you

Looking for a usability testing tool to use? In this chapter, you'll learn how to choose the right usability testing tool for you, and get a list of top nine tools you can choose from.

When you're just getting started with usability testing, choosing a usability testing tool is an essential part of that process. The tool you'll need to use, if any, depends on the type of usability testing you're planning to run, and the usability testing method that you'll be using to conduct the sessions. 

But it's also important to note that you can run usability testing without a dedicated tool. Specifically, if you're planning to do qualitative, in-person usability testing, all you need is a prototype or product to share with your test participants. For this type of usability testing, your goals are simple: observe how users complete the tasks you've prepared and jot down any pain points or difficulties they've encountered.

However, if you're planning usability testing sessions remotely, or are looking to collect quantitative usability data, then you'll need to choose a usability testing tool that best suits your research requirements.

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How to choose a usability testing tool that's right for you

To choose the right usability testing tool for you, you'll have to determine the research questions you're trying to answer, the type of data you need to collect, and the type of usability testing you want to run.

Here's a simple, four-step approach to choose a usability testing tool.

1. Define your UX research question(s)

All user research should begin with a question. It’s critical that you start here because not all research can tell you everything you need to know. For example, misclick rates can reveal findability issues on a page or design, but it doesn't tell you why those happen. Similarly, running user interviews may help you understand your users' needs, but it doesn't tell if a particular user flow is usable. 

To define the research questions you need to answer, start by learning about the users and their current experience with your product. Here's a few prompts to help you and your product team get started: 

  • Researcher: “What does a typical user flow look like and what frustrates users?”
  • UX designer: “Does my latest design solve our users’ problems with finding information?” 
  • Product marketer: “How does this new web page copy perform compared to our current one?”
  • Product manager: “Where can we improve our app to better fit our customer workflows?

Once you define your research questions, you'll know best what type of usability testing you need to run, and what method to choose.

2. Decide what type of data you need to collect

Next, decide what type of usability data you want to collect: quantitative or qualitative data. A best practice is to combine qualitative and quantitative usability testing, as the most in-depth insights come from both. But, you may not necessarily need both types in order to get useful answers. That's why determining your research question first is essential.

Qualitative usability data comes from in-person or remote one-on-one user interviews, or from video recordings of test participants completing tasks. Additionally, qualitative data can come from comments, opinions, or other unstructured feedback left by participants.

On the other hand, quantitative usability data is recorded indirectly and consists of metrics such as completion rates, time on screen and misclicks, as well as closed-ended user research questions like opinion metrics, multiple-choice questions, and more. 

Most usability testing tools offer one type of data, either through video recordings or through task completion metrics. So deciding which usability testing method you need to run, and the type of data that best answers your research question will help you choose the best tool for you.

3. Determine how you'll run usability testing 

Another thing you'll have to consider is the type of usability testing you want to run, and how you plan to collect this data. Determining whether you'll be doing moderated or unmoderated usability tests and whether these tests will take place in-person or remote, will help you decide on a usability testing tool more easily. 

4. Choose a usability testing tool

Lastly, when choosing a usability testing tool, you have to consider your budget, the project's timelines, and the resources you already have. For instance, do you have a user researcher assigned to the project who can help you plan, run, and analyze the usability testing results? Or similarly, does the project's timeline allow you to schedule moderated sessions with enough test participants to get significant results? These types of questions will help you narrow down the feature-set you need your usability tool to have.

Make sure to also consider whether you need to hire external test participants for your usability test. If so, what are the criteria you're looking for when selecting user testing participants? If you need a wide range of criteria, consider whether the platform has a curated pool of testers.

Additionally, think about where in the process you are, and how early and often you need to test. For instance, you can run usability testing with mockups or high-fidelity prototypes, or you can run tests after your design has been implemented on a live website or app to measure performance in real-time. 

Here's some use cases for usability testing and the features you'll need for each: 

  • Information architecture is usually tested with card sorting and tree testing, and you might also need survey questions to get collect user feedback.
  • Prototype testing usually happens with an existing prototype, so you'll need to look for importing functionality or integrations with the prototyping tool you use. Other features you might need are research questions, video recording, or heatmap analysis.
  • Website usability testing is usually performed on a live website to learn how a website performs with real users. You'll probably also need functionality like cross-browser testing, screen recording, scroll maps, or heatmaps. 
  • Guerilla or hallway usability testing takes place in-person with different users, so you'll need functionality to test on the same device with different people, in addition to all basic usability testing features.

Similarly, you can use Google Analytics to look at bounce rates or time-on-page on a landing page, and extract insights that help you improve your customers' experience. 

Finally, consider whether you need to hire external participants for your test, and if so, how much control you want over who participates in your test. If you need a wide range of criteria, consider a platform that allows you to draw from a curated pool of testers.

Taking inventory of the particularities of your project, as well as the resources already at your disposal will help you better assess the best usability testing tool for you.

Top 9 usability testing tools for a better UX

1. Maze

Maze is a user research platform that enables you to collect both qualitative and quantitative usability data, all in one place. Maze integrates directly with Figma, InVision, Marvel, or Sketch, and allows you to import an existing prototype from the design tool you use.

With Maze, you can create and run in-depth usability tests, and share those tests with your testers with a link. Its usability testing solution includes varied features such as task analysis, multiple path analysis, heatmaps, A/B testing, guerilla testing, and more. Maze Discovery allows you to run research surveys, and collect user feedback early in the design process. Maze also allows you to test your information architecture with blocks such as Card Sorts and Tree Tests. 

Maze's reporting functionality allows you to collect usability testing results such as completion rates, misclick rates, time spent, and more instantly. Maze also generates a usability test report instantly for each test, that you can share with anyone with a link. The free plan allows you to run one usability testing project, and paid plans start at $49 per month. 

2. Lookback

Lookback is a user experience (UX) screen recording tool for designers and product managers who want to see how users interact with their applications. Lookback’s testing tools let you see what your users see and get their reactions, in real-time, in a recording, or in-person. Once you set up a remote test, participants will receive a link to download your app and get started with a live session or self-test. Recordings automatically appear in your dashboard where you can organize them into groups and create highlights for your team members. 

Lookback is particularly loved for doing real-time remote user research. Customers say the platform is user-friendly and love how they can watch users going through their app flows in real-time, seeing their reactions and communicating directly with them.

3. Usertesting.com

UserTesting offers a set of customer experience (CX) solutions for designers, product managers, marketers, and executives. Their platform lets you see, hear, and talk to customers as they interact with websites, applications, or prototypes. 

Within the platform, Insight Core is a toolkit for building and managing custom user research and tests. UserTesting offers different features, such as Product Insights, which offers pre-formatted tests and same-day video interviews designed to get you real customer feedback, fast. Another  Marketing Insight helps you create better marketing content and campaigns by testing your messages with real customers. 

Users particularly love UserTesting’s pre-formatted tests, which get them up and running quickly, and the Live Conversation feature for recruiting and scheduling live interviews as quickly as the same day. UserTesting’s platform and pricing structure are especially well-suited for company-wide usability initiatives at mid-size and larger enterprises.

4. Optimal Workshop

Optimal Workshop offers a suite of usability testing tools for information architecture (IA) tests. Researchers and designers use Optimal Workshop to benchmark and test how users find the information they need on web pages or mobile apps. Its feature-set includes tools for card sorting, tree testing, first-click testing, and more.

Optimal Workshop is recommended for its ease of use and focus on IA testing. The platform is a great choice for understanding how users navigate and find information, and gives you the user feedback you need to improve their experience. The Individual plan starts at $166 per month, per user and you can add more seats at an additional cost to collaborate with your team on research.

5. UsabilityHub

UsabilityHub is a remote user research platform that allows you to run different types of research tests and identify usability issues. The UsabilityHub platform is best known for the range of tests it allows you to run. You can set up and can conduct first-click tests, design surveys, preference tests, and five-second tests. What's more, they have a built-in participants panel with over 170,000 testers available on-demand. Alternatively, you can invite your own users to participate in the test.

UsabilityHub is particularly loved for how easy and straightforward it is, especially as a single user. You can run tests under two minutes for free, or upgrade the tests for $50 and access custom functionality. Their reporting features include click visualizations, open text analysis, task duration metrics, and more.

6. Loop11

Loop11 is another prominent online usability tool that allows you to run website usability testing, A/B testing, and prototype testing. You can combine both tasks and questions in your tests for a mix of quantitative and qualitative results. It also offers a range of video, audio, and screen recording features, so it's best for unmoderated usability testing when you don't have enough time to run one-on-one sessions.

Additionally, Loop11 also offers a pool of participants to recruit from. If you’re looking for a quick, high-level overview of how your website performs, then Loop11 might be a good solution for you. Pricing starts at $69 for 3 tests per month, and they also offer a Pro and Team plan for unlimited access.

7. Userfeel 

Userfeel is a usability testing tool that gives you recorded videos of users completing tasks in real-time. You can set up a list of tasks for tests to complete on your website, define the target audience, and then collect recorded videos of users.

Multilingual testing is available in 40 languages for tests on mobile, desktop, and tablet. Their panel consists of 90,000 users and you can filter testers by demographic criteria such as age, country, language, level of web experience, etc. Their pricing is credit-based at $59 per credit. One credit gives you access to a 60-minute unmoderated test with your own users, a 20-minute unmoderated test with Userfeel's testers, and more.

8. TrymyUI

Another remote usability testing tool, TrymyUI allows you to run website usability tests and get recorded videos of users completing the tasks you've created. The basic feature-set of TrymyUI is similar to other user testing tools, including impression testing, written surveys, demographic curation, etc. 

Their reporting feature, Collaborative Analysis, allows you to make video annotations, highlight reels, and generate an executive summary from your results. Pricing starts at $99 per month for an Individual plan and includes 5 monthly credits for ordering tests from TrymyUI. A Team plan is available for $399, while the Enterprise plan comes at $2000/mo.

9. Hotjar 

Rather than being a usability testing tool, Hotjar allows you to measure and track the usability of your website by recording heatmaps and behavior from real people. Hotjar is well known for its live heatmap recording functionality, and additional features include session recordings, conversion funnel analysis, as well as the collection of user feedback via feedback forms and surveys. 

Its versatile feature set allows it to be a favorite analytics tool for marketers, product managers, and user researchers. Their individual plan offers free recordings for up to 2000 page views per month, and there are Business and Team plans available to choose from.

Notable mentions: Userzoom, Qualaroo, Usabilla, and CrazyEgg

The usability testing tools market is quite vast, so it's worth mentioning these four tools in case you need to assess all available options: 

1. UserZoom: Actionable UX insights for better digital experiences

2. Qualaroo: Customer and user feedback software 

3. Usabilla from SurveyMonkey: User feedback and survey tools 

4. CrazyEgg: Heatmaps, snapshots, and session recordings