GUI vs Usability Testing: Understanding the Difference

When you test your web application for potential bugs and issues, before you make it live, there is a list of testing types that need to be carried out. GUI testing and usability testing, both form a part of this list.

What is GUI Testing?

GUI testing refers to testing the Graphical User Interface of an application. It focuses on the functionality of the app’s user interface (UI) and is essential for complete test coverage. It is used to track issues wherein the internal functionalities are working fine but there are problems on the user interface that prevent the user from performing certain actions. Here are 2 examples:

  • Checking the screen controls like menus, icons, buttons, menu bar, etc.
  • Checking the usage of the right combination of font sizes.
  • Checking whether error messages appear or not.
  • Checking if the application is visually appealing.

What is Usability Testing?

Usability testing refers to testing an application to determine its ease of use and level of user-friendliness. It is used to ensure a new user can easily learn to use the application and perform actions without a need for assistance. Here are 2 examples:

  • Checking placement of important buttons to ensure they can be easily seen by the user.
  • Checking content for spelling & grammatical errors.
  • Identifying how long it takes to complete specified tasks.
  • Identifying changes required to improve user performance and satisfaction.

Interestingly, the many similarities between the two leave many a tester baffled. However, the fact is there are differences when it comes to the objective and scope, and a few other parameters. Here we shall look at a comparison table that briefly describes the differences.

ParameterGUI TestingUsability Testing
ObjectiveApplication is tested to ensure design and functional attributes meet the user requirements specified by the clientApplication is tested to ensure ease of accessibility to the users and make it user friendly
PerspectiveTesting is carried out from the technical perspectiveTesting is carried out from the perspective of a non-technical user


Only the front end or interface of the application is testedOverall working of the application is tested
Does not cover the system flow of the applicationInvolves testing of systematic workflow between different modules within the application
Covers the appearance and look of the applicationInvolves testing the functionality of the application
PriorityImportant step in the testing process but lesser in priority as compared to usability testingFocuses more on the user perspective and is of a higher priority
ApplicationNecessary when developing an application for a specific user baseNot so necessary for apps catering to a unique user base.

At the end of the day, both usability testing and GUI testing are elements of automated web application testing that help in making your application more appealing and attractive to your users and leads to more downloads. Also, one cannot deny the fact that an app, or any software product for that matter, should meet the technical specifications as well cater to the user’s convenience in order to be successful.

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