Usability Questions? Go Guerilla Style!

In less than an hour, you have actionable evaluations of usability that research indicates can identify 85% of usability problems. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

There are a lot of different ways to diagnose usability problems, and some of them are more complex than others. You can recruit focus groups and then use either CTA (Concurrent Thinking Aloud) or RTA (Retrospective Thinking Aloud) to gauge what users think of your product. You can hire experts or consultants to run a Heuristic Evaluation to evaluate the software’s performance based on established human use factors. You can even recruit users for a Participatory Design session, where the users themselves would design a solution to a usability problem you have already identified.

These methods and many more are all valid, and depending on the software and the resources available any one of them will provide you with valuable information on how to improve software usability. But these are also resource intensive, not just in terms of dollars. They cost a lot of time, a lot of planning, and a lot of effort to do everything from design the framework for testing to recruiting volunteers to analyzing the results. Isn’t there anything you can do now that will be less resource intensive and still give you actionable results? There is!

Guerilla testing is a cheap, fast and easy way for you to gauge user experiences with your software product; plus you can pair up with another local business and build relationships that will support you both in the future!  The video runs through the process, but here are the basic steps:

  1. Pick a cafe, coffee shop or other public area to set up testing.
  2. Recruit five people to use your software or application for ten minutes. While they are using it, you ask them to think out loud. The staff member or volunteer takes notes.
  3. After the ten minutes is up, you have a quick wrap up discussion and ask for any clarification or follow up.
  4. You thank them for participating and give them a reward…something like a gift card for the cafe or a free drink or dessert.

Voila!  In less than an hour, you have actionable evaluations of usability that research indicates can identify 85% of usability problems!  You can take the issues back to your office, get them resolved, and then repeat the process to be sure that users aren’t experiencing the same problems that were previously identified. It can’t get much easier (or cheaper) than that!



  1. […] Better yet, use non-users in a guerilla testing setup, which I have discussed in posts here and here. You will get much better data to work […]



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