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A Quick Guide to UI and Usability Testing

May 01, 2022
A Quick Guide to UI and Usability Testing

How are they related? 

Modern software is created using many different technologies, including frameworks, libraries, and languages. The code is then integrated and bundled into a final package that can be distributed to end users. The problem is that each of these components will run on different devices, operating systems, and browsers. So if you want to ensure that your user interface looks good and works well across all of these different devices (and their various form factors), you need to test it. 

Testing your UI means having actual end users (in the beginning, these users are QA Engineers) interact with your website or application as they would in real life. That way, if there are issues with navigation or if something doesn't work as expected, you'll find out about it before launching, saving time and extra development costs. 

UI issues often cause usability problems. Similarly, some usability problems may be due to complex and irrelevant steps in the UI elements. That’s why, by testing for UI, you’ll also be testing for usability bugs. 

‘Responsive design’ is more than just a buzzword

Not all web browsers are created equal. Although most of the popular options are similar, they’re still distinct enough that they won’t necessarily display your website in the same way. It’s crucial, therefore, to test a website in different browsers. 

The same is true for mobile apps. With so many people now using mobile phones to view websites, you need to make sure your site is easy to read and navigate on these devices. The best way to do this is with responsive design. Responsive design lets you see how a site looks across different devices. It’s not just for testing; it’s also good for showing clients or other stakeholders what their site will look like on a variety of screens. It can be time-consuming to test sites on multiple devices, though. Fortunately, there are tools that can help you out. Here are two of our favorites. Both are very popular and extremely easy to use. 

#1. Browserstack

Browserstack is a cross-browser testing tool that allows you to run manual and automated tests on more than 700 desktop and mobile browsers and devices. This makes it much easier to test sites on different operating systems, resolutions, and browsers without needing access to those computers or phones. It’s also helpful for checking older versions of Internet Explorer if your team still supports them. 

#2. Google DevTools Device Mode

This tool doesn't require any subscription and is free for anyone to use. With Google Dev Tool, you can test your website on real mobile devices in a single click. Google DevTools Device Mode lets you easily emulate different mobile devices so you can check that your website displays correctly on all of them.

You don’t even need to have all of those devices. Just open up any page in Chrome, click Inspect > More tools > Device Mode, and choose a device from the list. Any changes you make will be live-viewed on that device instantly. 

This is especially helpful for checking things like responsive design, and making sure images are sized correctly for different screens. Want to see what your site looks like on an iPhone 12? Want to test loading times over 5G? There’s no easier way than Google DevTools Device Mode.

A picture is worth more than a thousand words

When testing for UI issues, you should also pay attention to how the images look. Pictures and graphics add life to a page and can help readers better understand your message. In today’s mobile world, where a growing number of people will be accessing your site via smartphone or tablet, it’s even more important that you have the pictures in place. Otherwise, you risk losing viewers who are left staring at a wall of text when they should be looking at something eye-catching. That’s why you should make sure during testing that all images are clearly visible, aren’t cut off, and appear to be the correct size, color, and shape.  

Who are you designing for?

When testing for usability, it’s very important to know your audience. It’s crucial, in fact, in order to find any usability bugs. To prepare for the test, ask yourself the following questions: 

  • Do you know who your audience is? 
  • Do you really understand their needs and goals?
  • Are these people tech-savvy, or not really?  

If you don’t know the answers, spend some time researching your audience before testing. What are they reading, watching, and listening to? How old are they? What do they do for a living? Once you’ve learned these things about them, reevaluate your content from their perspective. Make sure everything on your site is accessible, easy to read, and fun to use for them specifically. 

Testing for usability is basically ensuring that the designs are suitable for your particular audience. If you find that it would be hard for them to understand the flow, or that it’s too complex for this type of task, you’d need to file a usability bug describing your point. 

Demo sites vs. prototypes

It’s both useful and necessary to work with the real product in order to find issues. For that, you can use demo sites or/and prototype sites. 

  • A demo site is something that looks exactly like your final product, but is only designed to give potential users a general idea of what it will be like when it’s finished.
  • A prototype, on the other hand, looks like a beta version and gives users a hands-on experience. 

Both are useful for user testing, but which one you choose depends on your situation.

What kind of tool should you use?

When looking for a tool to test your website, it’s important to understand what you’re testing for. If you need to see if your website looks good in different resolutions and on different devices, then you can use tools like BrowserStack or Google Dev Tool. However, if you want to see how quickly pages load on different devices, then you need a performance tool that tests speed. We’ll cover this topic more in our next article. 

What makes a great tool?

There are a lot of tools out there that allow you to test your site on multiple browsers. How do you choose which one to use? Most offerings are very similar at first glance, but the best tool for your needs depends on your unique situation. For example, if you’re designing and developing a responsive site that works on desktops as well as mobile devices, then you’ll need to test not only a desktop browser but also an app version. In this case, BrowserStack would be a great option. 

But maybe all you need is a quick and easy solution so that you can check how a page will appear in Google Chrome or on the most popular mobile devices. In that case, you can simply go for the Chrome Dev tool. 

Usually, though, most QA teams will use both simultaneously to have better test coverage. You can generally catch more bugs if you combine the two!


Keep in mind that, in testing for UI bugs, you’ll most likely uncover usability ones as well. In other words, the two often go hand in hand. Even if the implementation is done per the design, it doesn't mean bugs can’t still happen. Throughout the testing process, remember: If you see something weird, the customer will see it as well. So to deliver clean and user-friendly software, always test thoroughly using the helpful tools mentioned here!

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