We all understand that times are hard right now. Finding the money to fund a project can be difficult and you will find yourself paring the project plan way down in order to
complete it. Just because the money dries up doesn’t mean user testing nee
ds to dry up. There are plenty of ways to test your site on the cheap. Finding creative ways to keep usability testing in a project can make the best use of the dollars you have, catch issues before any code is written and give a better user experience to your customers.
My Preferred Method
Don’t get me wrong, I’d rather test early and often. I’ll do a baseline test of an existing site to see what is working well and prioritize the main tasks, a card sort to understand how users group information and if the labels make sense, a clickable prototype test of the main tasks that users would complete on the site, another clickable prototype test with the updated prototype (depending on poorly the site tested the first time) and a final test with the graphic design layered on to make sure it’s still working well with users.
My Creative Method
If you only get one shot at testing during the project, I choose the first clickable prototype. I split testing into two chunks so I have time to update the prototype in between. For a project I recently worked on, I recruited 21 users representing 3 personas. I split testing up so I could see the feedback from the first 10 users, updated the clickable prototype and tested the final 11 users with the changes I made. By the time I got to the report, the majority of the issues I had seen in the initial few days of testing were corrected in the final few days of testing. If you want to implement this type of testing and only have one persona, recruit 10 users and get the first 5 in the first day and a few days later get the next 5. It helps validate the recommendations you’ve made from the first round in the space of a few days or a couple weeks.
Creatively Recruiting Users
It takes only 5 users for each persona you’ve identified to spot a trend. I like to recruit 7 just in case a couple of folks don’t show up. You will need to give the users something for taking time to come and help you out with your test. I recommend giving users between $50-$100 to complete a test, but if you’re a non-profit or small business, your customers might be happy with a gift certificate for your service, a free membership or in the case of a museum, free entry. It might be easier to recruit on the spot for these users – there are already in your store/museum/etc. (hello demographic!) and may be willing to take a little extra time in exchange for something free. If you’re offering free entry to the museum, it
would make sense to meet with a few more people and have them each do 2-3 tasks out of a whole list of tasks. Rotate through the tasks as you’re meeting with each person to get a good sampling for all the tasks. Asking someone to spend an hour with you while their family and friends stare on is just mean.
When the dollars fall short on a project, you may have to reduce the amount of testing done on the site, but never remove it entirely. If you remove all testing from the project, you will find yourself making changes based on user feedback once the site is live and that will cost more time and money than if you had caught it in usability testing.