USABILITY AND ACCESSIBILITY TESTING
Within software development, you have probably heard both of the terms Usability Testing and Accessibility Testing but need a bit more information about the differences between the two. Even though they are both different, Usability Testing and Accessibility Testing have the same aim, which is to provide an improved user experience to all users of a website or an application. To do that they look at testing slightly different aspects of the user interaction.
WHAT IS USABILITY TESTING ?
Usability Testing involves evaluating a website or application by observing how real users interact with it, understanding how intuitive, efficient and user-friendly the system is by when performing specific tasks or using certain functionalities.
Key focusses of this kind of testing may be...
• How easy is the application to use ?
• Can users navigate through the application and accomplish what they need to do easily ?
• Can users quickly and efficiently can users perform tasks within the application ?
• Is the application intuitive ? Is it easy for new users to quickly pick up and use the application without training ?
• Does the application meet user expectations ?
Unlike Accessibility Testing, which tests relatively rigidly against compliance with specific accessibility criteria, Usability Testing is a more subjective process, taking stock of the user's feelings and opinions when using the application.
Possible test approaches may be...
• Users are given specific tasks to complete within the application, and must note the ease, the time taken and any issues or inefficiencies encountered during the completion of the task.
The resulting feedback from users about the usability of a website or application when performing certain tasks helps identify areas for improvement and enhancing the overall user experience.
WHAT IS ACCESSIBILITY TESTING ?
Accessibility Testing focusses on making sure that applications can be used by individuals with disabilities. Testing against criteria provided in the WCAG guidelines allows the tester to validate whether or not the application is sufficiently designed well enough to cater for users with disabilities.
Such tests can include...
• Is the software navigable without a mouse or pointing device, catering to users who are unable to operate such devices and rely solely on keyboard navigation ? Do the elements on-screen follow a logical tab order when tabbing through the items with keyboard-only interaction ?
• Are the colour combinations used in the software and visual elements designed to accommodate users with visual impairments such as colourblindness ?
• Are visually impaired users able to navigate and comprehend the software using screen reader technology, such as JAWS (Job Access With Speech) ? Are the web elements on the screen appropriately tagged and described for users which allows the screen readers to correctly announce the web element when they are in focus ?
Whilst different, Usability Testing and Accessibility Testing both have the same goal, which is to provide a satisfactory user experience for all. To do that the software should be both easy to use, efficient when performing tasks, easy to pick up and learn and enjoyable for all users to use, with or without disabilities.
Usability Testing focuses on the overall ease and satisfaction of using a website or application, whilst Accessibility Testing ensures that applications are equally usable and satisfying to all users, regardless of any physical or cognitive disability.