Mobile usability testing is an essential part of building an app that users respond to. Whether you’re building a commercial gaming app, or a mobile app that offers regional sales people more unified workflows to record data, the one thing that all companies need to plan for is the testing phase of their mobile app.

In this article we give 6 rules to ensure successful mobile usability testing.


The essential aspect of great testing is timing. Sometimes it feels like the test time always comes too soon and you’ll want to make sure that you have all your ducks in a row so you don’t have to take any shortcuts that might dilute the testing results. A great strategy to get around this is to implement dry runs of your test.

When doing this you’ll want to ask yourself: Was there enough time to go over all the tasks? Were the all the objective clear? How easy was the test to understand? Without doing a dry run, you risk losing valuable time during the real test when you discover a myriad of communication problems between you and the participants.

Recruit the Best Participants

Make sure that your participants are regular users of the platform you are testing. Don’t recruit android users to test an Iphone app. If you have users who do not work on your platform regularly, then you will end up biasing the test. In order to prevent this make sure your user is at least three months familiar with the platform.

You can recruit testers as easily as grabbing family and friends, which is called Hallway Testing, as in you literally grab someone in the hallway. This can be a great solution if you are looking for obvious problems with interactions, or general-purpose problems.

If your company makes a similar product, relying on your existing users is a hotbed for testing. Using pop-ups on your website (UserZoom and Ethnio) can be a great way to solicit testers. Not to mention that the marketing and sales teams often have customer contact information you can draw off.

However, using existing users may not be available and you may find that there were not enough volunteers, and in that case you can use a testing service like which allows you to recruit based on geographic location, gender and age. Plaza Research is also a recruitment firm that can match you through their local and international database fulfilling almost all recruitment needs.

Get the Best Testing Apparatus

Testing mobile usability will always be harder than testing desktop, and part of that is because it’s harder to mirror the test takers’ screen. You can use the smartphone’s screen recorder but unfortunately you won’t be able to record gestures or emotional responses. Using Airplay to link the device to a larger screen is helpful, as well as using a craned camera like Mr. Tappy that attaches to the mobile device.

Record the Body Language

When people use a desktop device they are often stationary, however, mobile users walk, talk, sit, and stand all while using their devices. When testing, make sure to pay attention to all the body language: facial expressions, finger movement, where they hold tension in the body. These are all clues that help to determine the success of an app that you want to deploy. It’s important to understand that behavior is more important than opinions when testing. If a participant gets flustered during the test that’s much more important than when they say they “liked” the app.

Ask Valuable Questions

Interviewing your participants can be one of the hardest skills to master especially when you are trying to not ask any leading questions. A leading question is one that prompts or encourages a specific desired answer. You can get around this by asking, “How was your experience?” Instead of “Did you like our app?” The most magic question to ask is always, “How much would you pay for this app?” Money is a sensitive subject, but often one that can give you the most information about your app.

Let the Users Fail

You will learn the most about your mobile app from the users who cannot figure out how to work it on their own. Don’t try to help them in the beginning. Instead, take a step back, describe the app, and then let them figure it out. If you must give a participant a hint then try to give as little information as possible. Greg Nudelman, in post for UX Mag, suggests the effective technique of answering a question with a question. So if your user asks, “I don’t know what the next step it? A great response is, “What do you think is the way forward?” Or, “If I wasn’t here, what would you do?” This way you are directing your user to act, rather than to verbalize, and what people do can often be more telling than what they say.

The most important part of testing is to make a human connection with your participants, after all your app is most likely about people and how you can make their lives better. Remember to plan accordingly (timing is everything), recruit the best participants, get the most helpful accessories, pay attention to body language, let the users fail, and always ask the right questions.