Guide to Mobile App Usability Testing: Methods, Tools, and Best Practices

Updated 29 Dec 2022
Published 23 Dec 2021
Gaurav Sharma 2924 Views
Mobile App Usability Testing

Mobile applications have brought a revolution in the technology space. We have seen a massive paradigm shift as far as telecom technology, connectivity, and utility are concerned.

We have millions of mobile apps on different marketplaces, that can help you perform every possible task or activity you can think of.

Customers are also finding it more convenient to use mobile apps and that’s the reason why most enterprises are investing heavily in developing their applications to give their business a leading edge to remain relevant in this ever-competitive world.

However, building a successful mobile app is easier said than done, as it is a complex process, that demands a focused approach, effort, and resources. An application’s success depends on various elements such as features, functionality, speed, usability, and many more.

While launching your mobile app, it is crucial to validate and ensure its Usability. Well, ‘mobile app usability’ might be a new term for you, do not fret as we will provide you with complete information about it and cover several aspects of mobile app usability.

In this blog, we will explain what mobile app usability is, its advantages, best practices, challenges, and a lot more.

What Is Mobile App Usability?

Mobile App Usability testing is a process of getting actual end-users to interact with your mobile app so that you can observe and assess their reactions, behavior, and interactions with it and make necessary changes to make it more user-friendly for them.

Mobile usability testing is an essential activity to ensure that you are developing an enjoyable and beneficial experience for your users.

Mobile App Usability

Usability testing plays an important role in the app development and software development lifecycle, as it helps developers to validate the decisions, they have already made regarding app interface design, functionality, and navigation. It enables developers to prioritize new features and error fixes.

Mobile App Usability Testing – Methods

We use six methods to accomplish mobile application usability testing. Each one gives you deep insight into a wide array of questions about your intended user base. You can select a suitable usability testing method based on your project goal and resource requirements.

Moderated and Unmoderated

Moderated tests are executed by a facilitator,  who conducts the test and addresses the user’s uncertainties and queries. Moderated testing enables a researcher to execute tests and ask follow-up questions for elaboration and clarification.

In this method, participants can perform tasks on their mobile devices while remaining engaged with the researcher telephonically via conferencing apps like Zoom Skype, or Teams.

mobile app development

Moderated testing yields results with in-depth insight. However, it may incur a high cost to organize these testing, as it requires a dedicated lab, an experienced facilitator, and appropriate compensation for participants.

On the other hand, Unmoderated testing is performed without a facilitator. Participants can design test tasks in a lab at their location. Unmoderated testing can offer quick results at a much lower cost, but it lacks accuracy in results.

It offers another drawback due to the lack of a facilitator, as there is no option to ask clarification or follow-up questions from the end-user.

Lab-based and Guerrilla Testing

Lab-based usability testing is one of the most used approaches to validate your mobile app Standards. Researchers can invite participants to a convenient location and implement a plethora of tools to gain in-depth insight.

Though some projects demand you to test the application design at the user’s location or environment, a user’s setting could be so specific, that it couldn’t be replicated in a lab.

Here it is important to note that usability testing at the user’s location or environment usually takes longer than other methods.

In-person and Remote

In-person usability testing provides researchers with a larger context and deeper insight, that helps them to observe users’ facial expressions and body language. It is performed during moderated lab-based testing and could be performed remotely using a tool.

Remote testing

Remote testing may not offer you as deep insight as in-person testing, but it allows you seamless access to larger participants scattered over different geographical locations at a negligible cost.

It also allows app owners to hire participants without thinking much about several constraints, for example, location and travel restrictions.

Card Sorting

It is an effective method to prioritize app features and content in the user interface. The researchers can place the content on virtual note cards, that can be manipulated by users into categories and groups. Once the cards are sorted out, the backed logic is explained to the users.

Eye Tracking

This usability method lets you monitor and evaluate users’ eye movements via advanced eye-tracking technology. Researchers can observe the skimming trends to monitor the direction where the user is looking, the element they are interacting with, and for how long.

Eye Tracking helps researchers to address usability challenges without intervening in the user’s natural flow.

Eye Tracking

Session recording

It is a method of recording the actions taken by the end-users in a real-time environment. It includes movements such as scrolling and clicking while using a mobile application.

Session recording provides vital data that enables app owners to observe the type of content that attracts better user engagement and understand the potential interaction problems user may encounter while using an app.

How Mobile app Usability Testing is performed?

Before discussing how mobile app usability testing is performed, we must understand how a usability test plan is developed, as it serves as a technical drawing for actual tests.

Usability Testing Plan development

A perfect testing plan must define the following : 

  • Objective of Test 
  • Research potential challenges
  • Characteristics of Participant 
  • Test Method
  • Task List
  • Test environment, equipment, and logistics
  • Role of Test facilitators
  • Data to evaluate and accumulate measures
  • Report Analysis and Content

So, this usability plan will help you understand the test order for mobile app usability testing.

Test Objectives

You must start with determining the test objectives, which can be achieved by asking various questions to application stakeholders to explore all aspects of apps. Test objectives must contain the following information :

  • App’s Roadmap
  • App’s Competitors
  • Targeted Market and Users 
  • Market Research and Analysis
  • Impact of Market  research
  • Time and Scope of Usability Testing 

These aspects help the mobile app development team to identify the app goals and usability metrics they need to measure.

To-Be-Performed Tasks

Here app development team lists down various tasks they will be performing:

  • Sign Up
  • Registration
  • Photo Upload

Test Documentation

It includes the preparation of Content form, Orientation Script, and Pre & Post-Test Questionnaires while conducting usability testing for your mobile app.

mobile app usability testing

Although the number of test documentation and their content may be slightly different, you must need :

  • Post-test questionnaire
  • Consent form (for minors and adults)

Test Participants – 

As we know Usability testing is a user-oriented approach, it involves real users, who execute practical tasks an application may accomplish. It may require more resources and effort to fetch accurate outcomes.

Test Method

Your app development team can follow the below methods to conduct seamless mobile app usability testing:

  • Remote usability testing
  • Laboratory-based usability testing

Both testing approaches come with their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Read Also:- What is Regression Testing? Methods, Test Cases & Tools

Advantages of Mobile App Usability Testing

Usability testing helps development and design teams to identify and resolve errors before they are coded. The sooner we identify and fix the potential bugs, the fewer efforts and costs we have to invest in the development process.

Mobile application usability testing offers the following advantages for users and developers:

Fix issues and improve User experience

Usability testing could be performed at any stage of the development life cycle. It enables the development team to resolve issues before app launch, which ensures an immaculate first impression of your app for the end-users.

development life cycle

Analyze and Improve App’s performance to meet usability goals

It lets the development team analyze and optimize the application’s performance, which helps the development team to meet the app’s usability objectives.

Efficient Task and Time Management

Usability testing helps developers to track the time required to fulfill a task. It reports if there is any difference in actual task completion time, in that way you can manage the task and time efficiently.

Effective determination of User’s Satisfaction score

You can easily check the level of user satisfaction with your app, then channel the feedback to make necessary improvements to enhance it further.

Identify modifications required to enhance performance

Developers can easily determine the changes required to improve the app performance at the user’s end. It helps in improving the features and functionality of your mobile app.

Allow Users’ active participation in the ideation process

The usability testing process facilitates the active participation of end-users at an early stage, which enables the application testers to fetch feedback and make necessary changes as early as the development phase.

hire mobile app development team

Mobile App Usability Best Practices

Well, you perform mobile app usability testing to identify bugs and errors in the code. However, you can follow some best practices to overcome common app issues.

Platform Compatibility

The most common issue that disenchants users from using an app is the lack of platform compatibility. While designing the mobile app, you must ensure that it performs well on all operating systems and platforms. Most popular platforms iOS and Android, both hold unique design, interface, and programming requirements.   both hold unique design, interface, and programming requirements.

You must design a mobile app, that can function seamlessly on different platforms while providing a native-like experience.

Offer Immediate Value to users

Users download and use those applications that offer them good value. You must ensure that users find your app valuable and helpful.

If your app failed to convince the user during the onboarding process or initial usage experience, then you may lose them forever. Offering appropriate value to the user results in lower abandonment rates and better performance metrics.

Easy App Navigation

App navigation is a critical success factor for any mobile application, as it can make or break the user experience. Your mobile app may offer a plethora of features and functionalities, but it is of no use if users struggle while navigating the app.

App navigation must be straightforward and it should prevent instances where users can get lost while using the app. Complicated app navigation may result in a higher abandonment rate.

navigation app development

Test mobile App In multiple environments

While conducting usability testing for mobile apps, it is important to test them in multiple environments and platforms. It helps you understand app behavior in different environments and take corrective action to make their function smoother.

Always dodge Testing on Prototype

It is always recommended to test your mobile app on the actual devices instead of using them on any prototype. This approach helps facilitators to better understand how the app functions on various devices and form factors.

Recruit recommended and correctly sized Test Group

Always select a group of people who have less experience in using smartphones. It is recommended to have diverse opinions from participant groups, as it helps you to develop a better mobile app, that can address the concerns of a diverse user base.

It is highly recommended to hire at least five users to perform usability testing for your mobile app.

Clear and Precise Content

While designing the app, always keep your app content straightforward and concise. Clear content helps the user to meet their objectives and improves their overall engagement with the app.

rtless Scrolling –

Always avoid copying your mobile app’s content and enhance it based on your application’s requirements.

Reduce the Steps required to complete an Action

You should ensure every action of your mobile app must be straightforward and precise to meet its intended goal with ease. It is necessary to declutter your app’s user interface, as every screen, image, button, or even icon can muddle the user flow.

It is recommended to use limited but essential UI elements and showcase important content to users to improve application usability and conversion rate.

Reduce Scrolling

You must provide necessary information to users within the screen limits only, which will help users to access most of the information without using the scrolling function.

It is always recommended to use side scrolls sensibly, as sometimes it hides essential content.

mobile app development

Mobile App Usability Issues that can jeopardize your mobile app

Multiple issues can lead to unsuccessful mobile apps. It is important to consider these issues while developing and testing an application. Let’s Check Them Out:

Screen Resolution Compatibility

Screen resolution issues can jeopardize a user’s experience. Even if the Operating system is the same, the app may behave differently on different mobile devices, resolutions, and screen sizes. Mobile apps may look enthralling on one device and scatter on another.

Navigation Complexities

An application’s navigation enables users to catch up with the features and interact with the app modules effectively. If navigation is complex, then it may lead to user dissatisfaction and may lead them to exit the app.

Effortless Scrolling

Application scrolling is an extremely vital aspect of application design, as it offers an intuitive interface to the end-users. However, the side-scrolling must be carefully designed, as it may hide valuable content sometimes.

Infinite Typing and Tapping

A mobile app demands virtually unlimited typing and tapping by the end user. However, it is always recommended to ensure all functions are completed with fewer steps, fields, pages, and buttons.

Read Also:- Complete Guide for Developing Indoor Navigation Mobile Application

No Auto-Fill

Users may get annoyed if an application asks them to enter personal details frequently. To avoid such instances, the developers must incorporate an auto-fill data feature to make it more convenient.

This feature will reduce a lot of user load and help them to get instant search results.

User Feedback

It is extremely vital to fetch user feedback for developing a mobile application better. Usually, app developers let them go. The app should perform as per the users’ expectations.

Gesture Responsiveness

Lack of gesture responsiveness led to a bad customer experience. If an app user experiences issues such as mistaken elements, buttons not working, and substandard counter-intuitive gestures can jeopardize the app’s usability, and it may force a user to uninstall the app.


Mobile application usability plays an important role in app success, and you must employ a well-structured approach to perform usability testing.

The best part is, that you can tweak this approach based on your business and app requirements, and an app could be tested to fetch reliable outcomes. 

Mobile app usability testing designates developers to pay the utmost attention to the aspects that can make or break your application’s prospects. It also helps developers to validate the desired within a specific environment.

Developers can use app usability testing in various ways and stages during their project lifecycle. Though it is unable to mimic real-life usage, it is still the proven method to ensure your mobile app can meet its user experience goals easily and quickly.

If a business meets the expectation of its users, they are more likely to create a successful service and experience.

Mobile App Usability – FAQs

    • How can we effectively test mobile app usability?

      We can test mobile app usability via the following seven steps :
      1. Identify your objectives
      2. Design the Task.
      3. Select Between Remote Testing or Lab Settings
      4. Ready, Set, and Execute the test
      5. Analyze and Organize the data
      6. Improve based on learning
      7. Plan next test

    • How Mobile App Usability testing is conducted?

      In a typical mobile app usability testing session, a facilitator asks a participant to execute a specific task using single or multiple user interfaces. While the participants perform the task, the facilitator observes their behavior, understands the gestures, and listens for the user feedback.

    • What are the most common challenges while performing mobile app usability testing?

      We may encounter the following type of challenges while performing usability testing for mobile apps :
      1. Device Screen Sizes
      2. Browser Fragmentation
      3. Battery Life and Power Consumption
      4. Network Connection Types
      5. Operating system Versions and Fragmentation
      6. Device Settings
      7. Usability
      8. Internationalization

  • What are some common limitations of Mobile application usability testing?

    We may have the following limitations of mobile app usability testing :
    1. It could be costly in terms of equipment, efforts, and technical resources required.
    2. The data is complex and may consume huge time to perform analysis.
    3. It demands significant participation by all stakeholders.
    4. It is slightly difficult to perform it on a large sample of potential users.

  • What is the difference between usability testing and user testing?

    Usability testing determines if the end-user can or cannot perform the intended operation using the product prototype. Whereas User testing is a process of validating the requirements of a product. We can say that User testing is performed while developing a product, while usability testing comes at the later stages.

  • What should we do once the Mobile app Usability testing is completed?

    Once the mobile app usability testing process is completed, we should prepare a final report to share the findings with all the stakeholders. A usability testing report must be precise, actionable, and easy to understand. This report helps the project development team to plan further stages and design iterations.

Gaurav Sharma

Gourav Sharma is a Digital Marketing Strategist at Arka Softwares, a leading web development company. He has 2 years of experience in the Information Technology industry. He spends his time reading about new trends in Digital Marketing and the latest app development technologies.

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