9 Best Practices For Conducting Usability Testing For Mobile Apps

“Usability testing” – as the name suggests, is one type of testing that tests the usability of the software with the help of real users. This technique is used in user-centered interaction design for evaluating a product and it gives direct feedback on how real users would feel while using the system.

It focuses on measuring a software/mobile application’s capability to meet its intended purpose.

For example, when a particular set of users are asked to complete tasks or follow some navigation flow, and at the same time, they are observed by the tester/researcher to see what problems they encounter during the process.

Usability.gov also quotes usability testing as testing that refers to evaluating a product or a service by testing it with representative users. It further adds that the goal here is to identify usability flaws, collect qualitative and quantitative data and measure the participant user’s satisfaction with the product.

When these tests are conducted and designed to perform on mobile apps, they are called mobile usability testing. Here, the goal is to check the application’s user-friendliness and see what kind of support the application can provide to the users.

Usability Testing For Mobile Apps

Setting up the tasks for users.

It is essential to set clear objectives that lead to measurable results. You need to set the tasks that assess the user interactions in the right way and test the usability of the application’s functionalities.

Design tasks for users that are not giving hints to them but rather design them to let users explore and navigate the application in their own ways. A product owner or company should not recommend users perform a task using a certain way, but they can certainly tell them to do a particular action.

Also, the suggestions and directions don’t help. Otherwise, the real test results won’t be achieved. You won’t be able to track their user experiences if you continue to provide them guidance on communicating with the application.

For example, you should consider removing placeholder texts on the text boxes. In addition, remove any ambiguity if present in your instructions before running the test.

Users can perform any tasks as per the application functionalities such as,

  • Registering to an account,
  • Upload a picture,
  • Uploading a video,
  • Sending a message,
  • Accepting a friend request,
  • or Deactivating an account.

Try to keep tasks as much as actionable, raw, and realistic. The goals should be described precisely and be given the freedom to compare products and feel the user experience based on their criteria and expectations.

Mobile usability testing Methods and Best Practices

Let’s take a look at some of the commonly used methods of mobile app usability testing.

Remote vs. In-person usability testing

The goal of the usability test is to see how a user behaves when left alone. And if you fail to do that, the testing process might look controlled. You want your users to do things that they’d do naturally, so remote usability testing makes more sense for favorable results.

Conducting user tests remotely, especially for startups, is more recommended, and it is doable, provided there are many usability testing tools available in the market that facilitates this setup.

On the contrary, in-person testing requires users to be present in a fixed environment, such as a meeting room with small groups or a fixed number of individuals. Here the benefit is that the observer can monitor the users performing the tasks and ask them questions at any point. Generally, this type of testing is conducted for a larger usability study by the research team or as a part of the big organizational activity.

A/B Testing

This method segments the audience into two groups who test the mobile app’s behavior for higher conversion rates. This type of testing involves sending app traffic to each group and evaluating the variations having a high conversion rate and the best user experience.

Card Sorting

In this method, users need to organize a set of items into groups and give labels. It is an UX research, iterative and qualitative technique, and it uncovers the field knowledge of the target audience. It means it serves the purpose of creating an information architecture that matches the user’s expectations.

Phone and Video interviews

This method requires participants to complete the tasks over a video call to remotely note their interactions and behavior. It is used as a low-budget testing solution, especially when users across large geographical locations conduct testing.

Recruiting the right testing group

It is crucial to select the right group to produce favorable results and make the app’s user experience overall satisfying. Therefore, make diversity a priority while choosing people for the target demographic. You can also filter the people by beta testing your target geographic location’s people—the more diverse, the better.

Test on actual devices

Real results need real devices. If you want to measure how people will interact with your mobile application. Also, it gives a thorough understanding of how different users will interact with various devices and test scenarios.

Test group size

According to Nielsen Norman Group, 5 users for a usability test covers most mobile app testing needs. Mobile apps with more than 30-40 screens, you may employ 10-15 participants in successive batches.

Using appropriate tool

Select a tool that is not slowing down your application. For example, most remote testing tools require SDK installation. So it’s crucial to make a mindful selection of usability testing tools.

Ensuring all participants are on the same page

Make sure you ask follow-up questions to all your participants and are on the same page with the tasks assigned to them. It will be beneficial if all participants are working on the same task, especially when you give advice/instructions to them about device orientation or cellular connectivity, etc.

Benefits of usability testing

Time-saving approach

If you are looking at the development cost, you should probably think about the usability issues. Usability testing can save you from spending 50% of the person-hours resolving technical issues. It is beneficial for both the company and the end-user. This testing saves companies from overlooking the issues and catches the problems earlier, making it less time-consuming and cost-effective. Plus, it makes decisions based on the facts and user experiences rather than assumptions, so it improves the UX overall.

Identification of problems

Usability testing identifies the problems early, and hence, the development processes will be less expensive in terms of time and cost. Also, you will know earlier about how your application is seen from the user’s perspective as you’ll learn how long it takes to complete specific tasks and which functionality is user-friendly or challenging to work with.

Better product

The overall product or a mobile application will be better as the testing will be integrated as an ongoing process throughout the design phase. This will make the product more streamlined as you will continuously learn how your users think and what their expectations are.

Discovering hidden issues

Mobile app usability testing uncovers problems that are challenging to detect for testers. For example, you’ll be able to determine why the particular mobile app feature or page is ignored or why the users choose other navigation paths instead of the direct one in the app flow. On discovering such behavior patterns, you can identify minor issues such as performance lagging, broken links, or buttons that may affect the mobile application’s functionality.

Convenience of use

Usability testing ensures the simplicity and convenience of the mobile application as the users will be involved in the development right from the start. It will let developers know how rapidly a particular feature or an entire application builds familiarity with the users and where it makes more sense? Hence, it makes a smooth process of building a product exactly how the users want.

Challenges of mobile app usability testing

Selecting a target group for testing can be challenging.

Different mobile apps have different sets of target audiences. For example, some mobile apps target youth, while some apps such as healthcare apps may target senior citizens more. In such a case, it isn’t easy to find a particular set of people for testing the application and provide the proper feedback and assistance for building a better product.

It could be expensive.

This type of testing involves a broader range of people to experience the application and assist the development teams in delivering the expected user experience. So it takes a bit of an extended period to perform and requires a bigger budget. So organizations might find it an expensive option compared to other types of testing.

Outcomes are questionable

Usability testing of mobile apps has randomly selected users; hence, the outcomes are not 100% accurate every time. Therefore, you might get compromised results in case the participants are not 100% reporting reasonable and precise inputs, which is possible.

Deciding the right tasks.

It’s crucial for the testers(users) to explore the application with a realistic vision. So setting up the right tasks for them could be challenging. However, here the “users” are the testers, so letting them discover the tasks will generate more valuable outcomes than asking them to do a predefined list of tasks.

Tight deadlines

In order to meet user expectations, software development teams feel pressure to deliver, hit deadlines, and track KPIs. Mobile application development teams sometimes have incredibly tight deadlines and rush to push features into production. They have to self validate the features just to keep the development cycle running. In such cases, it is difficult to find solutions that balance user testing feedback and development teams.

Tools used for mobile usability testing


It is an easy and fast way to create UI prototypes for testing. Solidify lets you upload screens and hotlink them together, then start testing your ideas with real users. It has a manageable workflow and enables you to gain insights into problem areas through user test reports.


Mouseflow is the easiest way to record your users’ actions and experiences on the mobile application. It lets you replay the full visitor experience and identify pain points to help you optimize the performance of the application.


UserZoom is an excellent tool for conducting remote usability testing for mobile apps. It helps you uncover issues with the design of your mobile application and reveal necessary improvements that can be made to make a product more user-friendly and reliable. In addition, it is a UX insights solution that helps you track users remotely, what they think, and measure user experience performance.


Testbirds is a great tool for remote usability testing for mobile apps. It takes care of all your usability and UX testing problems by keeping a step ahead with quick feedback and insights from the real users. It is the fastest and convenient way to get detailed feedback about your product. It also offers surveys and interviews that immediately tell you about issues related to user experience.


TreeJack has proved to be a handy tool for the information architecture of your mobile application. It renders the mobile site map in its simplest form as a tree and then sets up tasks for participants. Furthermore, it lets you know where and why users get stuck in the application and evaluates how your target audience navigates through it.


We hope that you find best practices and mobile app usability testing methods applicable from the article. There are many best practices for usability testing such as recruiting the right audience, weaving the proper feedback, giving a second thought to the feedback, stressing on in-person testing in certain cases, and many that you can employ to receive accurate results from usability testing. Also, try the above-mentioned tools for your requirements of usability testing. We’re sure you must’ve enjoyed reading the article!

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