Formative Usability Testing

The simplest, most effective way to understand how to improve your product is to watch people use it.

Human Factors MD conducts Formative Usability Testing for clients to evaluate the usability of their medical software or device design. We put early product concepts or design prototypes into the hands of users and have them complete real activities under our observation. Six to eight users are sufficient to put a design through its paces. We measure how well people do, where they have problems, and how they experience the design. When testing is complete, our clients know which aspects of their design work well and where to focus efforts at improvement.

Solves These Problems

  • We are investing heavily in the development of a new generation of product. But how can we be sure we have a winner?
  • Clinicians won’t use our device unless it’s simple and easy to operate. How do we ensure that our engineers are on the right track?
  • How do we meet our design verification objectives? How can we verify that our design outputs match our design inputs?

Our Approach

Conducting formative usability testing as part of an iterative design strategy is the most reliable way to develop a truly usable product. The very good news is that formative usability testing can be effective with as few as six to eight participants. Moreover, depending upon the design issues under evaluation, usability testing can be conducted using simple, low fidelity paper or foam mockups or higher fidelity software or presentation prototypes.

But for usability testing to be effective, it needs to conducted well. Usability testing isn’t simply about bringing users around a table to view and talk about your design. A usability test is not a focus group. For usability testing to be an effective tool for understanding user interface design strengths and weaknesses it needs to engage actual users in performing real work. Actual users. Performing real work. Using realistic clinical data. In a realistic setting.

We’ll work with clients to plan an effective usability test: to define the test objectives, prototype requirements, and activities test participants will perform to evaluate the design. We develop a participant screener and recruit representative users. We host and conduct the testing, keeping a video-log for subsequent evaluation. We analyze the results, prioritize usability issues, generate design recommendations, and summarize the key findings and recommendations in a presentation to our client’s development team.


  • Provides quick, cost-effective, and actionable feedback from real users.
  • Identifies usability strengths and prioritizes usability weaknesses.
  • Satisfies design verification requirements.


A Usability Test Plan, Participant Screener, Results Presentation, and video-footage.