Usability Testing with Little to no Budget

13 Nov 2014, by John Simmons in Developer

Small Shop

Being a UX designer that works with clients that don’t have a massive budget for their projects can be challenging. As I study and try to learn about usability testing, many of the solutions require big budgets, lots of time, and specialized facilities. I have been to workshops, read blogs, and many books. These resources are good, but I find very few of them cater to those of us who work with little to no budget for testing. I know I am not the only one experiencing this so that is why I want to share a few things that I currently do for usability testing.

Use the people around you

One of the first things I have recognized is this, some user testing even with individuals that are non-experts, is better than nothing at all. There will be times where you will have the good fortune to be able to test with actual users, but many times this may not be the case. Finding people that are easily accessible to you is the biggest key to success, in my opinion.

Quick access to individuals means that you can make multiple iterations on your mockups in a relative short amount of time. As we all know, time is a precious commodity and we never seem to have enough of it. I am sure your schedules are probably like mine, the mockups are due almost as quickly as you can create them. If I have to wait long periods of time for feedback, I wouldn’t be able to make the multiple iterations that bring me closer to the best solution.

Co-workers

That being said, you have to look around you at the people you have the quickest access to on a daily basis. The first and most obvious option would be your fellow co-workers. Depending on the size of your shop, all of your fellow workers might be on the same project. If this is the case, you can still glean some useful feedback from them. In my instance, we have a couple of projects going at the same time so I like to connect with those on different projects to get a fresh perspective.

Since I am the only UX person on staff, all of those around me happen to be of the coder persuasion. I see this as a major benefit. Having feedback from the code team has been very useful. The coders think differently than I do and can see things that I would completely miss. The flow of page or process is a perfect example. I try and think through the flow as much as possible, but they see holes that I would never catch. Finding people that think different has been hugely beneficial. Those type of people challenge my mockups rather than just confirming what I already have completed, or agree with everything. Without that struggle between ideas, it is really hard to create the best solution for a screen.

Building Friends

Another way to get feedback from the people around you is to go outside your office to people in your office building. This is definitely one of those “get outside of your comfort zone” moments, but I have actually had great success with this. I does help that I consider myself a “people person.” I find that I have connected with people I have in my normal routine. Coming up the elevator in the morning or walking down the hallway I will engage in conversation and get to know those around me. When the time comes for testing I don’t just randomly walk up to people and shove a piece of paper in their face, I try and catch those people I have met previously. I have also had success with people sitting in the cafeteria as well as the smokers area outside, those individuals are usually very chatty and willing to help out.

Reach out to Family

If those types of office interactions are not an option for you, family is also a great source for user tests. Family members are people you are comfortable speaking with and are willing to help out. Depending on the size of your family, they are a great source to gain exposure to people of all ages. If you need an older audience, contact mom and dad. If you need a younger audience, call your brother or sister. Anyone that you have access to on a regular basis can fulfill this role. Take the feedback they give and use it to iterate and improve your mockups.

Online Resources

Although there is no face-to-face interaction, I have found great value in using online resources. The great thing about online resources is the quick turnaround. There are not many other ways in which to receive this type of large response and feedback with only one point of introduction.

There are many sites out there that can be used but I have personally been using www.usabilityhub.com. The good thing about this site is that you don’t have to purchase anything to be able to use this tool. Although there is a paid option, they use a system called “Karma Points.” This point system allows you to go on and take tests that other users have posted. The tests are quick and easy to do. Each test you complete gives you these “Karma Points.” You can use those points to recruit users once you have created your own tests. This is a FREE way to user test online, as long as you participate in testing for others. The other benefit is that while you are testing for others to earn points, you begin to gain insight and ideas from these other ux designer test that you can then use for your own projects.

Facebook Friends

Once you have created test on usability hub, you can also share your tests on Facebook. When you share your tests with people you know, you don’t get charged your karma points. This allows you to get more out of your testing. Each test will cost you a certain amount of karma points but you can provide unlimited user responses by posting yourself. I find that my friends and family (and sometimes people I haven’t seen in 20 years) will respond to your Facebook tests. You can also pay for Karma points as well. Although, I have found that between the users I bring via Facebook and the karma points I acquire doing other tests, I don’t ever pay for these responses.

Make the Effort

For me user testing has been a personal journey in which I have had to get very creative in order to get it done. It takes a certain level of diligence. I find myself at times wanting to skip the process for the sake of time and to just get things done. In the end I am always glad when I take just a bit of extra time to go through this process because it always helps to shape a better project. Using these few simple tools, you can get tons of feedback and create enough iterations to make a difference in your projects. All of this on a tight or non-existing budget.

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