Which Usability Testing Methods Should I Use?

Usability Testing Methods

There’s an overwhelming number of usability testing methods available. It’s hard to know which is right for your use case. That’s why we’ve written a comprehensive guide to each different usability testing method and when you should use it. 

We will cover

  • Moderated Interviews
  • Unmoderated UX Research
  • Card Sorting
  • Tree Testing
  • A/B Testing
  • Eye Tracking
  • Surveys
  • 5 Second Test
  • Heuristic Evaluation

Moderated Interviews

What is it?

Moderated interviews are conversations with the participants. Use this usability testing method to dig deeper into the conversation. The best part about these sessions is that you’re able to ask follow up questions. It will help clarify points of confusion. Learn more about participants thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and desires.

When should we use it?

It’s an excellent method for showing participants complex products that may need extra explaining. When preparing for a moderated interview, create a discussion guide with questions for participants. It will help guide your session.

Unmoderated UX Research

What is it?

Unmoderated user research is the process of getting video feedback from your users. You will set questions for participants to walk through while interacting with a prototype, website or concept. Participants complete the sessions on their own time remotely.

When should we use it? 

Unmoderated research is a valuable usability testing method. It’s helpful when you’re looking to get feedback on a prototype, website, or concept. If you’re not sure where to get started or what questions to ask, check out these templates.

Conduct both moderated interviews and unmoderated research with PlaybookUX, our remote user testing tool.

Card Sorting

What is it?

Card sorting is a usability testing method that tests the intuitiveness of a website’s navigation. Write out different features of your product or site, and people will sort them into groups. Occasionally, those groups are prelabeled (closed card sort). Other times, the participants will come up with the navigation label themselves (open card sort).

When should we use it?

Card sorting ensures that your information architecture is optimized based on your target demographics expectations. It helps organize sets of information into intuitive groups.

Perform card sorting with moderated or unmoderated research. A moderated card sort is when participants perform a card sort while speaking to a researcher one-on-one. The benefit of running a moderated interview is that you’re able to ask follow up questions. With these conversations, you’re ready to uncover valuable insights.

Unmoderated card sorting is when participants organize content into groups without a researcher present. Typically, participants record their screen while interacting with a card sorting software and speaking their thoughts out loud. As with all unmoderated research, it’s usually cheaper and faster than moderated studies.

Understand how card sorting can improve your product’s navigation here.

A/B Testing

What is it? 

A/B Testing is when you test two different versions of a design to see which one performs better. A/B testing is an excellent testing method for making small changes to optimize a current solution.

When should we use it?

A/B testing allows companies to make controlled changes. It’s a way to pinpoint which designs perform best. Think of it as a quantitative tool to improve conversion rates over time.

Here are a few of the best software tools automate that process.

Once your A/B test is live, these softwares randomly assign website visitors to one of the two groups: the experimental or the control. Each software includes analytics for analyzing visitor results.

Heuristic Evaluation

What is it? A heuristic evaluation is a process of having usability experts review the UX of a product or design. Usability experts are professionals who are skilled in determining heuristic evaluation criteria and assessing a product against it. It’s is similar to usability testing, but with usability testing, the testers comprise of the target demographic, and in heuristic evaluations, the testers are usability experts. There are about 250+ qualitative heuristic guidelines. Here’s a link to the top ten usability heuristics to get started. When should we use it? Heuristic evaluations ensure quality product and design usability. Perform a heuristic evaluation after each design iteration before conducting user testing.

5-second test

What is it? A five-second test is a usability testing method to understand a visitor’s first impression of your website. It’s helpful to understand if the user can gather the purpose of a website quickly. A five-second test is performed by showing the user a design or landing page for five seconds. Once you show the designs, ask a few short questions like:
  • What do you think the purpose of the page is?
  • Who do you think intended target demographic is?
  • What’s your initial impression of this design?
When should we use it? When you have a new website page, it’s helpful to run a quick five-second test to ensure your target demographic understands the purpose of the website. If people don’t understand the purpose of your website, they’ll bounce right away.


What is it? Eye-tracking allows you to watch your users eye movements as they view a website, prototype or product. When should we use it? Understanding where your customer’s eyes are drawn will help rearrange call-to-actions so they are easily visible. It’s important to note that there’s a lot of data with eye tracking exercises. Post-session synthesis may require a lot of time. Also, it’s important to find an accurate eye-tracking tool, which may require using an in-person lab.


What is it? Surveys are a data collection tool that allows you to reach a large population with little effort. When should we use it? Surveys are applicable during many phases of the software development lifecycle. They’re great for market research and when you’re trying to understand market size.

Tree Testing

What is it? Tree testing evaluates information hierarchy. It points out when navigation labels are confusing. A website is sorted into a tree, with a few broad topics and many subtopics. The subtopics must be findable. Imagine you’re looking for ‘soap’ on Walmart’s website. You should be able to find it with as little clicks as possible. When should we use it? It’s crucial to assess navigation structure so people can find what they’re looking for. Check out our guide to tree testing here.

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