Guerrilla testing - practical tips

by Chi Chung Tsang on 26 May 2016

It's always valuable to test your designs with users. Guerrilla testing is a low cost research method that can be conducted in a variety of settings and involves approaching members of the public to give feedback on your designs. Having ran a series of guerrilla testing in the past few weeks for a travel app. I've decided to share some of the things we found worked well for us.

It's always valuable to test your designs with users

Plan appropriately

The amount of time you need to plan guerrilla testing depends on the project but generally there should be enough time to:

  • Establish research objectives and questions. Design research sessions to last around 15 minutes. Unlike formal usability testing, participants are recruited in advance. In the time you have them for, they are more likely to be focused on the session. We found that after 15 minutes of guerrilla testing, focus and motivation can dip. Interruptions are also likely to happen
  • Create or understand any stimulus used for tested
  • Create a recruitment script. Ideally, it should quickly outline your intentions and level of involvement you need. If you are struggling to recruit, you can add an incentive to the script but it is not necessary. The one we used was: "Hi, we are doing some research for a travel company. They are designing a new mobile app and want some feedback on how people might use this app. Have you got a few minutes to have a look?"
  • Figure out where to find the right participants. While cafes and parks are the easiest places to recruit from, they may not have the participants you need
  • Prepare a consent form. You will need this if you are recording sessions or in any way collect data that could identify a participant
  • Determine the minimum number of participants needed. On average, we managed 6 users in half a day although our target user was not particularly difficult to recruit for
  • Prepare incentives if needed. We used a £10 amazon voucher but this will vary depending on your target user and amount of time you are going to need from them

Ideally, there should be two researchers. one to conduct the research and one to take notes, it makes a big difference being able to focus on the session

Grab a pen and notepad, this is a very non-intrusive method of note taking that can be used in a variety of situations, like places with no tables

Finding participants

The environment can affect the quality of your testing. Sun-glare and dead wifi spots were often barriers in preventing us from testing outdoors or in the park. We also avoided areas where the researcher(s) would have difficulty trying to see the user using the app.

Before approaching participants, prepare your testing stimulus and make sure it works. You don't want to waste time doing this during the session if you don't have to.

Approaching participants

Depending on how you feel about cold-approaching strangers, recruiting participants can be the most difficult part of guerrilla testing. I generally start off being very uncomfortable with the idea of approaching strangers but once I have talked to a few people, it becomes less of a concern because people will either say yes or no to participating. Its not very dramatic.

People will say no. We had occasions where we really struggled to get participants. We even had people lie to us. This can be worrying, especially if you have limited time but a few things you could do to turn this around are to tweak your recruitment script or move onto a new location. For us, moving on to a new location worked well.

Don't forget to establish whether they are the right users. After all, you should be looking to test with actual or potential users.

During the session

Although 15 minutes does not feel like a long time, we found participants lose track of time quite easily during sessions. However, respect the participants time. If they have a hard cut off time, respect the cut off time. A few participants were more then willing to be comprehensive about the app.

Equally, you will also encounter participants who just give very little feedback. Trying to get meaningful feedback from these participants can be challenging. If you are time conscious, end the session early and spend the time getting feedback from someone else.

After the session

Finally, always consolidate your findings after each session lest you forget it and comments blur from one participant to another. We spent 10 minutes consolidating what we found from our notebook and observations into a document which could be analysed later.

Keen to learn more? Check out our User Research training course!

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