Enhancing Usability: A Balance Between Structured and Exploratory Testing

Enhancing Usability with Structured Testing & Exploratory Testing

Ever felt like you wanted to plan for something through-and-through but also wanted to go with the flow? This dilemma of either comprehensive planning or exploring as things come your way, plays a key role for usability testing as well. When it comes to enhancing the usability for customers, the core area becomes the seamlessness of their user-experience (UX). For this, the right strategy comes from bringing a balance between a structured and an exploratory approach of testing.

The Nuances Within Structured Testing and Exploratory Testing

The essence of structured testing lies in the coherent planning for developing test cases and executing the same. On the other hand, exploratory testing is based on the notion to test an application on the go without any set structure. However, this does not imply that exploratory testing becomes a random effort – it is a well thought of process which goes hand-in-hand in terms of test planning and test execution. There are structured exploratory test efforts too that are common in the industry.

Where a structured testing effort defines the set goals for an application, exploratory has a broadened scope and canvas for a test effort.

These nuances play a key role when it comes to usability testing – with a melange of structured and exploratory nuances:

Usability Testing with a Structured Approach

With structured testing for enhancing usability, each and every step is planned for the components and focus areas to test within. It usually comprises tangible objectives and weighs on how well the real product (or prototype) meets customers’ expectations.

Engaging real end-users is ideal or people who match the characteristics of a real user, as nearly as possible, should be involved in a well-planned manner. It also involves studying users’ needs in line with the different components and business flows of the system.

The end result or the user feedback is formally documented and shared with the stakeholders at the end of the cycle. This approach thus, follows a cogent and streamlined process for usability.

Usability Testing with an Exploratory Approach

With exploratory testing for enhancing usability, an application is tested from the perspective of an end-user – it does not define a rigid strategy but goes in line with an intuitive one to identify users’ pain points.

It becomes somewhat a non-formal version of the structured approach wherein there are no inelastic focus areas. Real users should be involved as much as possible, keeping in mind the fact that experts, sometimes, are unable to look beyond the obvious – which a real user can easily discover.

Users herein, are randomly chosen and are asked to give a generic feedback of the product after using it – with either no or very little knowledge, support or training of the product. 

These two approaches, however different, focus on the same goal, i.e., enhancing a product’s usability. They become equally significant and striking a balance between the two helps achieve this goal seamlessly.

The Right Balance in Usability Between Structured and Exploratory Testing

Perception is a key component which makes all the difference when it comes to usability testing. What approach to take or strategy to adopt, become areas of consideration in enhancing users’ experience.

Over the years, users’ behaviour has undergone a massive transformation. To have what it takes in making the usage of the targeted audience simpler, efficient and seamless, becomes a game-changer for organizations. 

This thus, calls for the need to amalgamate coherent and structured testing with exploratory testing. Where a structured approach would help in enhancing usability with a concrete focus on certain areas within an application or a website, an exploratory approach would help tackle the unanticipated issues that may arise for users.

With the pandemic’s onset, the digital domain witnessed a completely new user-base. This made the need to evaluate new strategies in enhancing user experience based on different personas and to make products more intuitive and significant – calling for a structured approach for testing.

In parallel, exploratory testing became as important to understand and tackle real-world scenarios which could get lost in translation while following structured testing. With or without the pandemic, both these approaches help arrive at an all-inclusive product in terms of usability. 

Accessibility and Usability Go Together

A key domain that becomes complimentary to usability is accessibility. Since both go hand-in-hand, catering to the needs of differently-abled users for developing an accessible product becomes equally important. With a structured approach, incorporating accessibility can be taken up early-on rather than an afterthought.

At the same time, exploratory testing can also help in discovering inaccessible components which might have been missed in the initial stages. 

However in both the approaches, involving real-end users, i.e., differently-abled users, would help make the product seamless as their real pain points would be taken into account.

A novel approach that can be followed is that of a paired testing approach – wherein a differently-abled user works alongside an SME for identifying and eliminating pain points to produce realistic and reliable results.

Thus, accessibility becomes an important facet, which requires the right blend of structured and exploratory testing efforts for enhancing usability.

To Conclude

A harmonious mix of structured testing and exploratory testing for usability testing surely helps make products wholesome in terms of identifying maximum bugs and testing against certain focus areas as well as unexpected scenarios.

Enhancing a product’s usability with both the perspectives, would speak more to the users as their coherent feedback is taken into consideration. 

QA InfoTech, a Qualitest Company, possesses hands-on expertise in the domain and follows a cohesive approach in making a product seamlessly usable. In the quest of keeping users first, our mantra aligns with your vision in enhancing your product’s usability through our exceptional usability testing solutions.

About the Author

QA InfoTech

QA InfoTech

Established in 2003, with less than five testing experts, QA InfoTech has grown leaps and bounds with three QA Centers of Excellence globally; two of which are located in the hub of IT activity in India, Noida, and the other, our affiliate QA InfoTech Inc Michigan USA. In 2010 and 2011, QA InfoTech has been ranked in the top 100 places to work for in India.

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