What Is the Difference Between Analysis, Cognitive Walkthrough, and User Testing?

Often, these terms are used interchangeably. However, they are all distinctly different in their own right and just as valuable as the next. To best illustrate each of these usability methods, let’s take a closer look at each one.

Cognitive walkthrough

Who: New user.
What: Performs specific user tasks in line with user goals.
Why: To determine if the sequential process to get from point A (user task) to point B (user goal) work in the correct order they were designed to.

User testing

Who: End-user.
What: Uses the digital product in realistic circumstances.
Why: To understand how representative users will complete typical tasks in real-life situations.

Heuristic analysis

Who: System expert.
What: Compares usability to predefined heuristics.
Why: To see if the digital product can be used in a way that is most compatible for users and aligns with recognized usability principles.

From all three usability inspection methods, heuristic analysis is the most reliable one, as tests are more rigorous and systematic. Not to mention they are completed by evaluators with a deep understanding of heuristics, human variability, interaction design (IxD), HCI (human-computer interaction) and UX design. Also, evaluators typically have a background in relevant disciplines, including psychology, computer science, information sciences, and business.

This is why we will focus on heuristic analysis as the inspection method of choice for an impeccable UX design.

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