Guerilla Usability Testing

The Charlotte based UX meetup took place last week with a session entitled Inexpensive Usability Testing – A Very Jane Goodall Experience.

Considering that usability testing can be an expensive and time consuming process, which is hard to fit into a project proposal, this seemed like an opportunity I couldn’t miss! The session was led by Bermon Painter (@bermonpainter), Dustan Kasten (@iamdustan) and Assaf Weinberg (@assafweinberg) and hosted at Ally Bank. Apparently Ally have a great UX group with their own usability lab but due to the unexpected popularity of the meetup, we had to utilise a conference room for the user testing and discussion.

Remote Testing Tools

The session started with a presentation, which suggested the use of inexpensive online tools to run usability tests. Here are a few of recommendations:

FiveSecondTest – Conducting a five second test allows you to find out which parts of your designs are the most prominent

There are two main options with this tool:

  1. Memory Test – Users get 5 seconds to review the design and asked to remember specific elements.
  2. Click Test – Users get 5 seconds to localate and click on specific elements

You can run closed or open tests but most of the testers are web savvy so make sure to read through and extropolate the most useful test results.

Navflow – Navflow helps you improve your conversion rates by analysing how people navigate around your websites and applications

With this tool, you upload a series of images that represent a multiple page user path. As with fivesecondtest, you can have an open or closed test (handy for sensitive mockups) but in this case there is no time limit.

Websort – enables you to conduct remote card sorting online.

It’s a great way to gather feedback from users about how information on your site should be managed. You simply create a study, invite users via a link and analyse the results.

Websort also allows you to export your study for use on PlainFrame, which is ‘usability testing for website navigation and app menus’. This tool will present results on how users interact with your navigation structure, which plays an important role in the usability and ease of navigation of your site.

Although these tools cannot compare with a fully functional testing lab, the benefit is that the tools are inexpensive and allow you to return test results very quickly.

Coffee Shop Testing

If you are keen on lab situations then there is a great alternative – ‘Coffee Shop’ testing. All you need is a laptop, specific questions and goals, a friendly personality and some courage, oh and maybe some ‘sweetners’ as a back up. Major benefits of this type of testing are that you don’t have to recruit heavily or use expensive resources and you can run through several iterations (five users per iteration) in one week.

As with any user testing, planning is key! You must know what you are testing, have a clear set of goals (e.g clarity of labels, ease of signup), specify your methodology and target audience, and have a strategy to measure your results.

Testing Tips

Assaf Weinberg is an advocate of these tests as he’s experienced success when conducting tests for Travelocity. Here are few tips to completing successful test:

  • You must test the test prior to using it in the coffee shop.
  • You need to start with warm questions. It’s Important to start by making the user feel comfortable by providing some background and discussing various subjects with them, such as their hobbies and interests.
  • Let the user know what’s going to happen before you do it e.g I’m going to show the website homepage.
  • Encourage the user to explore and explain their experience.
  • You must be careful not to lead the subjects. Ask open questions.
  • Make it clear that there are no wrong answers.
  • Don’t use the words: ‘We’, ‘Test’ or ‘Survey’. People don’t like to feel that they are being tested or are conducting surveys. They also don’t like the suggestion that you are not alone in conducting the test.
  • Do use the words: ‘I’, ‘Help’ and ‘Opinion’. People love to help and offer opions, it gives them a feeling of value.
  • A gift card can help sway the user your way if they are undecided about helping or offering an opinion.
  • Try not to take notes during the test.

Startbucks is a great place to carry out the tests as there are lots of corporate users and not many highly experienced web savvy users, who could potentially distort your test results. You can also buy (multi-location) gift cards which can be used to sway the undecided users.

Testing Users

At the end of the presentation, we watched as test users were walked through an example website. In each case the user was shown the website for 5/7 seconds then asked to remember the elements. Open questions such as ‘Look around and let us know how you feel’, ‘is there anything else that would interest you’, ‘is that what you expected’, and ‘what do you know about the site’ were used to great effect. The results from the test presented the website developer with suggestions and recommendation on how they could improve the user experience and sign-up rate. It is obvious from these examples that user testing is an essential part of the development process, which can be included in a project inexpensively.