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  4. Comparative usability testing: Why it matters for your business

Comparative usability testing: Why it matters for your business

In a world where competition is fierce and design trends change rapidly, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve.

One way to do this is by utilizing comparative usability testing so you can provide performance insights on designs.

This article will discuss how comparative usability testing works and why it matters for your business.

What Is Comparative Usability Testing?
Steps Involved In Comparative Usability Testing?
Benefits of Comparative Usability Testing?
Why Is Comparative Usability Testing Important?

What is comparative usability testing?

Comparative Usability Testing is a usability testing method in which multiple versions of a website, app, or functional product are shown to users and their performance is measured against specific tasks.

This type of test typically involves showing two different designs to each user and asking them questions about the differences between the two screens.

The subjects do not know that they’re comparing different design concepts, but instead, think they’re just answering a series of questions about the site.

In most cases, one version is the existing design and one is an alternative suggested by either your team or users who have been recruited for testing purposes.

Comparative Usability Testing is one of the most common methods used for evaluating website designs.

A Comparative Usability Test can be conducted at any point in a website’s development process and is generally an inexpensive method to use when getting feedback on design concepts before making more significant investments into implementing those designs.

This type of testing is often best done as early as possible during the design process, with some companies even using it as part of their discovery phase where they recruit users who address questions like: “What are we trying to accomplish here?”; “Who’s our target audience?”; and “How might we approach this project?”

The earlier you run comparisons, however, the more accurate your results will be because there tends to be less bias or chance for the testers to become overly familiar with one design.

Comparative usability testing is effective because it can reveal which designs work well and why helping you avoid costly mistakes down the road as your business grows.


Different types of tests for a variety of insights

A/B Testing:

The simplest form is where two sites or apps are compared against each other in terms of user experience, typically via software tools like Optimizely or VWO.

These comparisons are quite effective at improving conversion rates by up to 30%.

Just changing three elements on an eCommerce site has been shown to increase sales by 98%. As such, these types of tests run early in the design phase can be a great way to determine what elements of an interface will have the most impact.

Multivariate testing:

The next step up allows you to test more than one variable at once and is extremely useful for determining which combination of changes has the best outcome, as opposed to just looking at singular variables independently.

This type of testing typically requires some form of software engineering to set it up so it’s not something that any business would want or need on their own but rather should look into hiring someone else who specializes in this area if interested.

Cognitive walkthrough/Heuristic analysis:

These tests are designed specifically around common usability problems with interfaces based on expert opinions from various companies like Nielsen Norman Group.

They’re incredibly useful but also the most expensive to conduct as it requires a large sample size and many hours of expert analysis.

Usability testing:

In this type, participants are observed while they interact with specific tasks or functions in an interface under natural circumstances.

This is essentially any kind of testing that isn’t comparative where you just look at singular variables independently since there will always be some sort of confounding variable coming into play whether we realize it or not without comparing two different designs side by side.

Which design people prefer is what matters here rather than how long it takes them to complete a which makes usability tests extremely valuable.

Comparative usability testing:

In this type of testing, participants are asked to complete specific tasks or functions in an interface while using one screen with the original and another screen with your alternative design on each respective device (desktop vs mobile).

Their performance over time can then be tracked by their preference for which they find most intuitive or easiest to use.


Steps involved in comparative usability testing

As you can see from this process overview, there are many steps involved in doing comparative usability testing.

It’s important to note that while each step has its importance there needs to be some kind of balance between all these steps otherwise it may create biases among participants resulting in wrong results which will then end up wasting time and money on something that would not work out well when implemented with real user data.

The first step involved in comparative usability testing is planning the test. It’s important to plan the test at least a week in advance so that participants can be booked and tasks planned out according to their interests and capabilities.

If you are using Comparative Usability Testing for your website or mobile app then it would be best if the tasks were tailored around those areas as these will produce more accurate results which will help optimize designs better than generic task scenarios.

The next step involved recruiting suitable participants based on specific demographics such as age range, education level, profession type, and so on… You may also recruit people depending upon what kind of user data you want like how experienced they are with technology products, and so on… Once you have recruited the right set of users who fit your requirements, ask them to visit testing facilities to complete their tasks.

This is a very important step as it ensures that the correct kind of data gets collected and also saves a lot of time in the long run if any changes need to be made during testing sessions.

After completing all requirements, results are then shared with you which will give you an idea about how well your design fares against competitors or similar designs from other brands and so on.

The insights derived from Comparative Usability Testing help guide future iterations based on actual user feedback instead of assumptions or guesses which ultimately leads to better business results for businesses who use comparative usability testing regularly.

It’s not just enough to know whether your product works properly but what matters more is knowing whether it works better than others by its performance metrics used.

The Comparative Usability Testing process involves testing two or more designs to measure their performance against each other.

Usually, you would select the design(s) that have similar functionalities and capabilities as your product but with a different user interface.

These products are usually competitive brands of your business offering the same goods/services in the market.

The goal is to learn how well users respond to various elements of the design such as buttons, labels, and so on; which can then be used by designers for improving future iterations.

Comparative usability testing provides some unique benefits over traditional usability testing methods.

Benefits of comparative usability testing

  • A better understanding of actual customer behavior compared to assumptions made based on surveys or interviews alone leads towards better decision-making.
  • Ability to gather user insights early and often.
  • Gain objective, data-driven feedback about your designs from real users instead of subjective opinions or assumptions made by designers/developers alone which leads to better decision making.
  • Identify problems with the design that might not be uncovered using traditional usability testing methods such as surveys or interviews – Comparative Usability Testing can serve as a validation tool for other types of tests like A/B testing (discussed below). It is important to keep in mind though: comparative usability test results are less accurate if there’s only one competitor involved. This method works best when at least two products are being tested against each other – this way you get an idea of how well your product stacks up compared to the competition.
  • This method of testing is largely considered an “advanced” type of usability test as it requires significant expertise from those involved in administration and analysis. It’s also important to note that this process can be time-consuming – make sure you allow enough budget for a thorough comparative study especially if multiple products are being tested against each other.
  • To conduct a proper Comparative Usability Test, two conditions must be met: The design needs to change between participants’ experiences with different versions (i.e., A/B Testing). – The tasks should remain constant across all designs under study.

Why is comparative usability testing important?

A comparative usability test of two designs allows for visualizing the differences in performance between them (and also provides a sense of how much better one design is over another).

This data can be used to improve existing designs or inform future design decisions.

Other types of tests like traditional usability tests and heuristic evaluations measure performance but do not allow designers to see what users are doing differently across versions – only whether they’re struggling with certain tasks or not.

This method provides insights on how well participants understand your interface as opposed to which version they find easier/more difficult to use. While both methods are important, Comparative Usability Testing is an important tool for providing performance insights on designs.

It provides insight regarding the reasons why participants are having trouble with certain tasks and allows designers to see how users’ interactions vary across different versions of your design.

Comparative Usability Testing is also important because it can help designers improve the design. If you’re testing two versions of a design to determine which version is easier for participants, one easy way to do this would be through an A/B test (also known as split testing).

This type of Usability Testing provides insight on performance-related issues rather than preference-based ones; however, it lacks the depth provided by Comparative Usability Testing because only whether they’re struggling with certain tasks or not.

It also doesn’t provide insight into why something is difficult and limits your ability to find ways that users are getting stuck within their workflow.

Participants perform different types of tasks depending on how they’re interacting with your product, so having access to their actual performance data is crucial to understanding how they’re interacting with your product.



As we saw in this article, the comparative usability testing method has several benefits. It can help you to generate useful insights about how users interact with your product, and what works well or not when compared to alternative options in the market.

Comparative usability testing is important for businesses that want to gather accurate performance data on their current designs so they can improve upon them before investing time and money into new projects.

Comparative usability testing helps provide teams with feedback early in the prototyping process so they can iterate quickly based on this information until their design offers a high-performing experience for users.

This also ensures efficient use of resources because companies know where additional investments should be made earlier than later. We hope you found our article helpful!


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