From a basic prototype to a full fledged website – usability testing takes it all. Yes, a product that is all the more interactive. An experience that is awe-inspiring. This is what usability testing vouches for and why not, after all, the insights can very well predict the user behavior in different scenarios. The research that goes through somehow creates a line between what we think and what things actually are. It incorporates ideas that work instead of relying on guesses and wishful thinking.

Now, research is often considered to be high on the budget and time and thus questioned repeatedly on its need in the design process. But this is not true. It is actually possible to fix a mistake or make changes in a quick low-cost testing method that gives valuable feedback of ultimate significance.

Cheap and fast, did we say? Enter- Guerrilla Usability Testing. A powerful and compatible technique that collects and evaluates feedback on qualitative terms and is quite economical and rapid as against other research methods.

A hassle free technique in itself, Guerrilla usability testing can be conducted anywhere just with the sole criteria of collecting insights through videos, audio recordings or even body language for that matter so as to analyze the consumer behavior. Be it website features or brand position, such data can be very useful in knowing the customer expectations and in revising the business goals.

The approach is quite fruitful as it challenges the assumptions and opinions that harbor the mind with regard to the user.

Best Suited

Okay, so we know that Guerrilla Testing has the time and cost advantage. But when to use it exactly?

  • The testing can be done on frequent basis throughout the span of service as the method is low on cost and does not boggle much with the setup.
  • When you want validation at an early stage in a project life-cycle so as to move ahead with an idea or concept.
  • In iterative design testing so as to check the hypothesis or assumptions regularly and thereby improving the experience.
  • When quick baseline checks of existing websites are required either app or mobile usage so as to mark out the user expectations.
  • For conducting basic tasks such as online shopping, filling a form etc. where domain oriented information is not required.
  • Looking after tests when it is difficult to contact the assigned end-users and catering to the problematic issues.
  • As an aspect in the major expert usability review so as to chalk out issues and sort them with existing service.

Place and Participants

The place where the tests are to be conducted is important and is determined by the task. Small scale or big scale, general or specific; it is the type of task which dictates the place that is the same office or a public coffee shop. So let context tell the place of testing. Owing to the informal nature of the tasks, the tasks are less in range and last for 15 to 20 minutes only. The number of participants can go from 6 to 12 depending upon the location and time. As such a technique targets the mass market, it is best to go to public spaces and shopping plazas as one can easily find a group of friendly strangers and the traffic can very well be used as target subjects.

So, keeping the informal criteria, the participants are not approached in advance but on the day of the test and then asked to take part. The test mainly revolves on the assumptions and objectives that are to be assessed.

Performance

The performance that is recorded out from the task is more features centric rather than figure collective. Heavy metrics are not accounted as the output that is derived mainly includes test plan document that points out the time and objectives , video showing the screen and participant recordings, summary outlining the main findings and steps in progress and a final presentation highlighting the chief findings and future steps.

The Process

Guerrilla usability testing adopts a straight forward methodology so the participants are asked to speak aloud at the time of performing and taking the call to action. The think aloud rule is used so as to see the understanding of the product in totality rather than focusing on just task completion. It is to observe how the consumers think, form opinion and then take the final action. Now, observation is a part and parcel of product development so even if it is to be included in testing, it should not be a problem.

Do not confuse the users and start with open ended questions example, what do you understand from this? Or what will be your answer here? Such kind of questions will loosen them up and they will easily tell their perspective about the product. While conducting the process, we can also gather ideas that offer scope for improvement in the next iteration. While going for this testing, take care of the following points:

  • Biasness in results can ruin the whole testing process. Individual differences are something that should be present and implicit bias will not give relative answers that are much needed. Be fair in your approach and be demographically smart.
  • Let the participants know what the whole thing is about. They should know who the designers are, why are they testing and what all is there on their mind in terms of collecting feedback. This can be best done with the help of a release form which will inform the users thoroughly and establish trust.
  • No matter what do not compromise on ethics. Said that, it does not mean complete transparency as sometimes skipping information is what is required. Make it a point to tell the truth at the end of every session so that the trust is not shattered.
  • Make it a casual exchange and lighten up the environment by giving refreshments to them. Show them that you value their time. Such an approach will keep the information flow and give an estimate as to how the test will go.
  • Encourage the people to participate in whatsoever manner they want to. Be it a piece of paper or notebook sheet, ask them to sketch the screens in a UI flow. Now, this necessarily should not be complicated but just a rough idea of what they are thinking.
  • Offer clarity wherever you sense confusion. Try to get them out of their comfort zone by encouraging them to express their ideas freely. Make sure they do not take the task personally as it can create a block in the testing process.
  • Just be in the moment during the testing procedure. The passing thoughts should be collected for later analysis. Do not get overwhelmed with making notes as even short pointers will do the deed. Special attention must be paid to the thought process and ethnographic observation is a great way to keep a tab on the thoughts.
  • Feedback is very important. So make sure to capture it completely. Certain tools such as Silverback or UX Recorder can be used to ascertain the reactions given through these activities. Be careful while choosing the tools as they must comply with the future sharing needs.
  • Keep a track of the time. Keep in mind the time that is being spent on the subjects. Also, tell the participants that they can leave whenever they want to so that do not get irritated and in turn spoil the whole feedback.

Feedback

After the participants have done their job, then comes the time for feedback Yes, time to give the results that have been derived from testing. Now, feedback should be put forth in a manner that it suits its audience well, that is, developers are interested in different sort of features as compared to executives or stakeholders who have different motives, so whenever the feedback is to be given, let it be in line with the audience’s demands or expectations. Make the feedback much more interactive by way of editing the videos and making it up to the point or for that matter, even jotting down the main highlights of the summary so as to keep people involved.

Limitations

Undoubtedly, Guerrilla testing is an excellent way to get speedy insights and that too at low costs. Even because of its great compatibility, it can be used multiple times throughout the product lifecycle and is brilliant for A/B testing. But there are certain drawbacks here too. As the sessions are informal in nature, there is not much scope for detailed observation.  The time span is short and hence only few issues can be pinpointed.

Participants if distracted or lost can be disinterested and will not contribute to a useful output. Low battery or Wifi can also pose problems, but if all the preparations are taken into consideration in advance, such issues can be sorted and handled.

A Sure Shot Hit

Still in a fix? Well, adding on to the brownie points and to remove all your doubts, here is one more reason to ‘go guerrilla’- big brands such as iPhone and the likes of it are using Guerrilla testing as a way to stamp the success of their experiments. A recent case study reveals that iPhone used the method to test ‘medium for iPhone’ , that is, the readability of the device so as to know that whether the pieces are worth reading or not and if that swipe is giving them a best-of-breed experience.

medium-app-testing

The main objective was to see what comes out of the reading experience and whether the app can pull the readers onto a daily reading habit. The tasks involved finding stories that left long lasting impressions, bookmarking the stories, retrieving the stories and even searching for a specific story of their choice.

The findings proved beneficial to analyze the consumer behavior that showed quick browsing of the articles to find a good story. The users opted for this app in transitional periods while travelling, waiting or relaxing thus conveniently flipping through the stories. It was noted that bookmarking and saving the collections made the users come back to the subjects of their interest and it served as a great hook for them as compared to the service where the readers are not allowed to retrieve saved bookmarks and they could not access the trending collections.

Also, search functionality proved to be of major importance as the users showed keen interest in searching for stories and collections in the native application itself. Thus, Guerrilla testing helped in improvising the application and made it best suited for the users to render an awesome experience. Seems like testing couldn’t have been better! Want success? Take the Guerrilla track.

The Last Word

Research just got more refined with Guerrilla testing. The huge costs and tedious tasks take a toll on the clients and bosses and they seem to skip testing to avoid all the problems. This method gets the research going and that too with less time and costs. But mind it, the results are high quality and best in order. Of course, no method can guarantee answers or results and same goes with Guerrilla too. It is just an excellent way to investigate and validate your ideas.

Rest, strategies will go along the way and processes will evolve with change. Nevertheless, go for the Guerrilla game and let research be fun!

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Prince Pal

UI UX Consultant Helping Digital Startups & Stakeholders Grow Their Business at Think 360 Studio
For 15+ years I have designed, developed and marketed websites/apps startups in New York, California, Florida and in India. Always focused on great User Interface is key.