May 26, 2023

5 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Conducting Usability Tests

Abhishek Kumar


Usability testing is a crucial part of user-centered design. It involves testing a product or service with real users to identify any issues or areas for improvement. Conducting usability tests can help designers create products and services that are more user-friendly and effective.

However, even with the best intentions, there are common mistakes that designers can make when conducting usability tests that can compromise the accuracy and effectiveness of the testing process. In this blog post, we will discuss the top five common mistakes to avoid when conducting usability tests.

Image Source : Nielsen Norman Group 

Mistake #1: Not setting clear objectives

Usability testing is an essential process for any product or service, as it helps to identify real user needs and problems. However, conducting usability tests without setting clear and intentional goals can lead to aimless tasks and unhelpful results. The objectives can range from testing navigation, preference between two design choices or discoverability of certain features. But irrespective of the objective, the more specific the goals are the easier it becomes to conduct a successful test.

How to avoid this mistake ? 

To avoid the mistake of not setting clear objectives in usability testing, it is important to define specific goals for the test. Clearly articulate what aspects of the product or service you want to evaluate and what insights you hope to gain. This will ensure that the testing process remains focused and yields valuable results.

Mistake #2: Not having a post-test analysis plan

Before beginning a usability test, it is critical to have a clear idea of how the data will be utilized. This allows for a more focused testing approach and ensures that the insights generated will be actionable. For example, if the testing reveals that users are struggling with a particular aspect of the product, the team should be ready to address this issue promptly once the testing is complete.

To maximize the value of usability testing, it is essential to translate the insights into tangible action items. This could involve redesigning certain elements of the product, simplifying complex processes, or enhancing the overall user interface. By turning the insights generated by the testing into concrete to-do tasks, the team can prioritize their efforts and make measurable improvements to the product.

Mistake #3: Not involving the design team 

One common mistake in usability testing is not involving the design team in the research process. Although it may seem like an unnecessary step, the design team can bring valuable insights and perspectives to the testing process.

When the design team is not involved in usability testing, important information can get lost in translation. Simply relaying information about usability issues to the design team can be insufficient and may not fully convey the experience of the user. 

How to avoid this mistake ? 

To avoid this mistake, it is recommended to involve the design team in usability testing sessions or allow them to watch the videos of users interacting with the product. This approach can help the design team understand the issues users are facing and contribute to developing better solutions that will ultimately improve the user experience.

Mistake #4: Asking leading and loaded questions

Asking leading and loaded questions during usability testing can skew the results and impact the validity of the research. The goal of usability testing is to gather honest and unfiltered feedback about a product or website, but the questions asked can influence the responses received.

A common source of bias in usability tests is leading questions. This happens when the researcher frames a question in a way that suggests a desired answer or elicits a specific emotion. These types of questions can lead participants to provide answers that are not entirely honest or reflective of their true experiences.

Image source : Inlab

How to avoid the mistake? 

To avoid leading and loaded questions, researchers should be mindful of how they frame their questions. It's important to ask questions that are neutral and unbiased, while still providing enough context for participants to understand what is being asked of them. For example, instead of asking "What did you like about the experience?" which suggests a positive response, ask "How was your experience with the task you just completed?" which is neutral and allows for a more honest response.

In summary, researchers should be cautious when crafting questions for usability testing to ensure that they are not introducing any bias that may impact the validity of the results. By asking neutral and unbiased questions, researchers can gather honest feedback and improve the user experience of their product or website.

Mistake #5: Failing to conduct a pilot test 

To ensure the accuracy and reliability of your usability test results, conducting a pilot test is essential. A pilot test helps identify any issues with your prototype or script that may impact participants' ability to complete the task. It also helps estimate the amount of time the test will take and provides an opportunity to clarify any confusing aspects of the test before the actual session.

By running a pilot test a few days before the actual usability testing, you have ample time to address any technical issues or revise the test scenarios or questions that may be unclear. This will help ensure that the final test runs smoothly and that you obtain high-quality data to inform your design decisions.


Usability testing is a critical step in creating user-friendly and effective products and services. However, designers can make common mistakes that compromise the accuracy and effectiveness of the testing process. By avoiding the five common mistakes discussed in this post - not setting intentional goals, not clearly defining tasks, recruiting the wrong participants, using a biased testing environment, and failing to act on feedback - designers can ensure that their usability testing provides valuable insights that inform design decisions. By doing so, they can create products and services that better meet the needs of their users and improve their overall user experience.

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