should usability tests be done during visual design as well? or should it be done during just phases of sketching and wireframes?
in my opinion, the testing phases are not related to a specific design process step.
For some projects, I start to test on paper prototypes till the coded output with the production theme.
For other topics or design tasks, I can be focused on a specific step because of the lack of time/capacity.
It depends on several topics:
- on which project status we are working on (eg new product, re-design, design bug fixing)?
- who requested to test something (eg design team, business people, it people, customers)?
- why we think that is worth to test (eg competitor benchmark, new features)?
- which type of test we are able to perform (qualitative vs quantitative)?
IMO, this is a definite YES.
Getting feedback at the wireframe stage is key to avoid going down the wrong road, but all of the visual stuff you add in later will also fundamentally shape the user experience in a lot of ways: visual hierarchy, perception of clutter, emotional response, etc. So you should be doing some testing with higher-fidelity prototypes as well.
Difficult part of course is finding time and resources to test in all of the relevant points in the design process, and building a tool stack that will make it possible.
Jakob Nielsen talks about this a lot - here’s a primer on his “discount usability” concept that he came up with way back in 1989 (I hope it’s ok to post links in here):
I tried my hand at building a tool stack to function as a modern version of this, which you can find here:
Hope it helps!
Yes, I believe testing should be a part of the entire UX lifecycle, Testing validates the research and keeps the entire process on track. Users feel more engaged when the entire interface is in front of them.