What are some examples for each definition?

  • 1
    What do you think about the tag definitions?
    – Michael Lai
    Commented Jul 26, 2016 at 22:43
  • 2
    Ahem.. we should't call it user testing. We're not testing the user, we're testing the system. We should call it usability testing. Commented Nov 17, 2016 at 21:54

4 Answers 4


User testing refers for a specific method for evaluation of an interface while user research incorporates a group of methodologies for evaluation of a system/interface that include user testing, interviews, surveys and others. So, user testing is just a type of user research method.

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User testing - this is one the most used and most valuable methods for evaluation of interfaces. You ask the user to think out loud while you give him tasks to complete. The evaluator watches how the user completes them without helping him. This way the researcher can spot where the user has hard times and what makes the task easier. More info here. For instance, imagine you have to evaluate a hotel website. You tell the user to make a booking through the site and watch him how she/he does this. You should record the session with video, audio, whatever you can or just take notes. Then after the user has made the booking you analyze where she/he had difficulties completing it.

User research - it includes different types of methodologies for evaluation. For example, you can do a combination of usability tests, online surveys, and A/B testing to evaluate the hotel website. Here you have used 3 user research methods to evaluate the desing of that site.


"User testing" is a bit of a misnomer. It makes it sound like the user's being tested, which can make participants fairly uncomfortable. I prefer the term "usability study," which means the same thing as "user testing" without without those negative connotations.

Usability studies (a.k.a. "user tests") are just one of many kinds of user research. The Nielsen Norman Group published this diagram showing some other kinds.A diagram listing types of user research, including usability studies, A/B testing, ethnographic studies, diary studies, and more

Things at the bottom of the diagram tend to be used early on, to uncover users' needs. Things toward the top tend to be used later to determine how users interact with an existing interface. Usability studies provide users with a set of tasks to accomplish using an existing interface, and thus appear in the upper half of the diagram and tend to occur in the later stages of user research.


User testing, I think the name Usability testing is more correct. You are testing your project to find how usable it is. So, Usability testing it's a name for a variety of tests:

  • task test
  • A/B tests
  • reading/comprehention test, etc

Where the subject is the project (app, website, interactive kiosk, paper brochure, instructions leaflet, etc.)

User research, as the name says, it's to find who your user is or to know it better. How? For example:

  • interviewing
  • observing
  • analysing data
  • defining personas
  • creating user journeys

Ultimately, you will want to know who your users are, what are their motivations, needs and frustrations.


It is just simple. User Testing can be done with out a lab set up. You ask your user to perform a task. And ask the user to think out loud while performing using the system. It is both quantitative and qualitative.

On the other hand, usability testing is dons in a lab set up, with 4-6 users performing different tasks and recording and tracking the user actions. It requires a moderator and another expert to observe the user performing. It is expensive. It gives Quantitative results.

  • 2
    You're defining user testing and usability testing, but that's not the two terms OP is asking about. What about user research? I also don't agree with your definition of usability testing. What makes you say it needs moderator and expert, tracking and recording everything? Different situations call for different methods. Usability Testing is not one set thing with a specific number of tasks and participants.
    – JonW
    Commented Jan 24, 2018 at 9:47

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