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Guerrilla User Testing: Quick Insights on a Budget

Guerrilla user testing

Guerrilla user testing is a quick, informal, and low-cost way for companies to gain valuable insights directly from users. 

As opposed to formal usability studies, guerrilla testing is meant to provide feedback without large budgets or resources. With some preparation and creativity, startups and small companies can conduct guerrilla user tests to understand how users interact with their products or services. 

The key is to focus on learning rather than rigorously documenting.

The central thesis is that guerrilla user testing allows startups and small companies to gain valuable user feedback even without access to big budgets. 

By adopting a flexible, iterative approach, teams can test product concepts or website designs early and often. These small tests uncover insights that can drive better design decisions over time. 

Although not as scientifically rigorous as formal studies, guerrilla testing provides the opportunity for continual improvement based on real user perspectives.

What is Guerrilla User Testing?

Guerrilla user testing refers to quick, informal usability testing conducted in public spaces like coffee shops, malls, or libraries. Unlike formal lab testing, guerrilla testing does not rely on representative sample groups. Instead, it takes advantage of small convenience samples of people available in public settings. Sessions are meant to last 5-10 minutes and focus on having users complete key tasks or workflows. The evaluator observes pain points and collects feedback on the fly.

The purpose of guerrilla testing is to provide early design guidance during product development, before committing to full usability studies. 

It gives teams feedback on whether their initial design and UX are usable, not comprehensive insights. Because it is fast, flexible and low-cost, guerrilla testing allows product teams to rapidly test concepts without extensive planning. 

This differentiates it from formal usability testing done in a controlled lab environment with dedicated participants. While not as scientific in its approach, guerrilla testing yields quick learnings that can validate design direction early on.

Benefits of Guerrilla Testing

1. Speed and Cost

One of the main advantages of guerrilla testing is the speed at which it can be conducted, allowing for rapid iteration and pivoting based on user insights. 

Because it is done out in public rather than in a formal lab setting, sessions can often be completed in a single day as opposed to the weeks required to plan and run moderated tests. 

There is also a much lower cost associated with guerrilla testing since there is no need to rent out a facility and hire participants. The low overhead enables more frequent and iterative testing, making it easy to validate design changes through several quick testing cycles.

Whereas formal studies provide insights over a matter of weeks or months, guerrilla testing delivers actionable findings in days. Product teams can use these rapid insights to make adjustments, catch issues early, and adapt the product direction based on how users interact with initial designs.

 Multiple rounds of guerrilla testing let you refine the product experience much faster than waiting on comprehensive lab testing results. For startups and small companies looking to bring products to market quickly, these testing speed benefits enable truly agile design grounded in user feedback.

2. Flexibility

One major advantage of guerrilla user testing is the flexibility it gives product teams to evaluate designs in a variety of ways. 

Since these sessions are informal and unmoderated, testers can get feedback on concepts ranging from low fidelity sketches to high fidelity interactive prototypes. 

For early stage concepts, this means design assumptions can be validated quickly without needing to build out comprehensive visual designs first. 

Testers may show paper sketches or simple clickable prototypes to gauge user reactions, understandability, and willingness to use a proposed solution. 

For more refined concepts, high fidelity designs can be evaluated by having users complete realistic tasks and workflows.

Guerrilla testing also accommodates exercises like card sorting or first click tests that provide UX insights around information architecture and intuitive navigation. Because the tester is present and the sessions are flexible, it is easy to switch up the specific tasks or questions posed to users based on learnings from previous sessions. 

The testing approach can be iteratively improved across multiple quick rounds of testing. For example, if a key pain point emerges around a certain task, testers can probe that issue further with specific questions in subsequent sessions. 

By leveraging multiple rapid testing cycles, testers can cover a wide range of feedback on everything from broad concepts to detailed interactions and workflows. This level of flexibility allows guerrilla testing to accommodate whatever feedback the product team needs at different points in the development process.

3. Authentic User Responses

A major advantage of guerrilla user testing is the ability to observe real, authentic reactions from users in environments familiar to them. Rather than lab testing rooms, guerrilla tests are conducted in public spaces like coffee shops, libraries, or parks that participants naturally frequent. 

This allows you to see how they respond in real-world settings representative of where your product would be used. Their comfort in these everyday environments results in more natural reactions and behaviors.

You get to watch users interact with your prototype in an organic way, without the artificial constraints imposed by a formal lab setting which may skew results. The public setting also means participants are often more relaxed and candid since it feels like a casual conversation rather than a high-pressure test. 

They may naturally ask questions, express confusion, or give open-ended commentary as they use your prototype because the informal environment encourages unfiltered feedback. 

This gives you insights not just into how they technically complete tasks, but their emotional responses and perceptions based on tone, body language, facial cues, and unprompted comments.

This realism provides authentic user data that is incredibly valuable for early stage products still figuring out product-market fit. The transparency of responses in a comfortable public setting allows you to shape the UX to better align with user expectations and address pain points they organically reveal. Testing methods that rely on artificial lab environments miss out on the depth of unfiltered feedback guerrilla testing facilitates.

4. Low participant burden

A major advantage of guerrilla testing is the minimal time commitment required from participants. Sessions typically last just 5-10 minutes, allowing people to conveniently provide feedback without lengthy disruptions to their day. 

This short duration makes recruitment easier since people are much more willing to participate when the time obligation is low. For user groups that are traditionally harder to recruit or have tight availability constraints, these compact sessions make it feasible to get their input.

For example, busy professionals, working parents, or specific demographics like seniors may be difficult to engage for hour-long lab studies but can spare 5 minutes to provide quick impressions in a public setting they already frequent. 

Because guerrilla testing focuses on targeted user tasks rather than comprehensive evaluations, small sample sizes of 5-15 participants are often sufficient to gain actionable insights in early testing. 

This differs from formal moderated tests which may require 30+ users for statistically significant results across wide-ranging tasks, questions, and metrics.

With quick sessions and smaller sample needs, guerrilla testing minimizes the burden placed on participants versus more resource-intensive methods. 

People can share valuable perspectives on new products in just a few minutes during their regular daily activities. For startups and smaller teams with limited resources, this ability to easily recruit from public settings provides convenient access to diverse user feedback they may be unable to obtain with formal studies. 

The low participant burden makes guerrilla testing extremely accessible even without extensive recruiting capabilities or incentives.

Recruiting Test Participants

Leverage public places

One major advantage of guerrilla user testing is the ability to recruit participants on-the-spot from public places that attract a diverse mix of user groups.

Coffee shops, libraries, malls, community centers, parks, and other public venues allow testers to intercept people to see if they’re interested in providing quick 5-10 minute feedback. Since these are spaces people naturally frequent, they offer an opportunity to evaluate designs in realistic contexts familiar to users.

Depending on budget availability, offering small incentives can motivate participation. Gift cards, cash, free products, or coupons are often sufficient when combined with the short session length.

Testers can approach users at venues the target demographic frequents to screen for criteria like age, familiarity with the product domain, or other attributes important for the concept being evaluated. With just a laptop or mobile prototype, testing can begin on the spot once willing participants who meet screening criteria are identified.

This public recruitment approach provides convenient access to organic user reactions that may be difficult to simulate in a lab environment. By leveraging venues users already visit, testers can incorporate contextual insights from their reactions in familiar real-world settings.

Frequent low-overhead testing cycles also become feasible without extensive planning. For early stage startups without dedicated testing facilities, tapping into public places provides a pathway to gather in-the-wild feedback across diverse user segments as they iterate.

Use social media

Social media opens up additional avenues for startups to recruit participants for guerrilla testing beyond traditional public intercepts.

Platforms like Facebook provide options to run local ads targeting specific demographics, interests, and user attributes relevant to your product and testing goals. This allows conveniently tapping into specific segments, like parents within a certain metro area for a child-focused app. LinkedIn enables connecting with professional groups tied to your domain, allowing recruitment through a natural context where they already discuss relevant topics.

Sites like Reddit and niche forums contain built-in communities passionate about certain activities or interests. Posting about opportunities to provide quick product feedback allows engaging subgroups aligned to what you are testing. For products beyond the early stage, leveraging existing social media followers is an authentic source of candid user perspectives. Current users often gladly provide feedback to shape future iterations and feel invested in contributing to the product’s progress.

The key benefit of social recruiting is moving beyond isolated generic feedback to including organic reactions from users in environments where they are actively engaged.

This provides not just task-based insights but unfiltered responses based on real personality and emotions that emerge through online conversations. With some creativity, social platforms enable startups to supplement in-person recruiting with contextually relevant feedback tied to target user motivations and perspectives.

Conducting Guerrilla Tests

Choosing the Right Location

Selecting the optimal public location is crucial for productive guerrilla testing sessions. Ideal venues are spaces like coffee shops, libraries, community centres, mall food courts, and local parks.

The location should enable reasonably focused 5-10 minute interactions in a natural setting, without excessive ambient noise or visual distractions. Look for semi-private spaces or corners within larger public areas that allow you to observe sessions discreetly. Position yourself outside the direct sight lines of participants to avoid influencing their behaviours.

Consider seating arrangements, lighting, wi-fi availability, outlet access, and other environmental factors to allow clear observation and natural reactions from participants.

For example, furniture configurations conducive to sitting side-by-side may elicit more open feedback than sitting across a table. Locations that make participants feel relaxed and unobserved will produce the most candid insights. Take time to scout locations in advance to find the right balance of comfort, privacy, and accessibility for guerrilla testing.

Using a Condensed Format

To respect participants’ time, guerrilla sessions should follow a focused 5-10 minute format with clear goals. Begin by welcoming the participant, briefly introducing the product concept, and explaining the 1-2 key tasks you want them to complete during the session.

For example, you may have them register for an account, complete a core workflow like making a purchase, find certain information, or evaluate specific new features.

Limit tasks to those most critical for the current phase of testing. Ask focused questions tailored to uncover specific insights needed, like feedback on the usability of navigation flows or the appeal of particular features.

Avoid overly broad feedback. Take notes on reactions, ask clarifying follow-ups, and debrief after key tasks to capture impressions while fresh. Well-planned, time-boxed sessions centered around defined goals will efficiently indicate if designs align with user expectations. Repeat with multiple participants to validate hypotheses and reveal consensus insights.

Analyzing Results on a Budget

Taking Comprehensive Notes

Thorough, comprehensive note-taking is essential during guerrilla test sessions to fully capture insights to analyze afterwards. Document verbatim quotes from participants to retain their exact word choices and vocabulary. Note precise emotional reactions like visible frustration, confusion, excitement or doubt at certain tasks. Flag any points in the tests where participants hesitate, express difficulty, or require clarification. Record spontaneous feedback, suggestions for improvement, and pain points mentioned organically.

Also diligently log any notable patterns across multiple users. If several participants have the same reaction, issue, or suggestion, it likely indicates a systematic UX problem to address rather than an individual preference. Detailed notes allow quantifying these trends and recurring opportunities to improve the product experience. With robust real-time observations, teams can conduct insightful asynchronous analysis without full recordings.

Reviewing Session Recordings

If budget allows, recording audio or video of guerrilla sessions provides valuable supplemental data. Review footage collaboratively with your team to pick up on subtle non-verbal cues like puzzled expressions, frustrated body language, and physical difficulties interacting with prototypes. Listen for telling tones and emotions in participant comments that may not come across in notes alone. Segment recordings to pinpoint usability problems and find common confusion points. Recordings fill observational gaps to better understand holistic user reactions.

Leveraging Free and Low-Cost Analytics

Numerous free or inexpensive analytics tools exist to enrich guerrilla test analysis using both notes and recordings. Google Forms and Typeform allow easy survey distribution to capture structured feedback at scale. Hotjar and Crazy Egg provide lightweight heatmaps and session recordings to reveal how users navigate. Optimal Workshop offers robust UX testing capabilities for free up to a certain volume. and Userzoom have budget remote unmoderated testing options.

These tools quantify findings and illustrate issues visually. Over time, they reveal UX progress through measurable data points. Thoughtful use of free and affordable analytics maximizes insights without steep costs.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Question: How many participants do I need for guerrilla user testing?

Answer: For guerrilla testing, small sample sizes of 5-15 participants are often sufficient since you are testing specific use cases rather than exhaustive features. Identifying issues that affect multiple users still provides actionable insights.

2. Question: What if I can’t offer incentives to participate?

Answer: Incentives help but are not absolutely necessary. Many people are willing to give quick feedback without compensation.

3. Question: Can guerrilla testing work for B2B products?

Answer: Yes, guerrilla testing can provide useful insights for B2B products. Focus on recruiting participants from your target customer demographics to evaluate specific workflows, terminology, and use cases.

4. Question: How do I recruit people for guerrilla user testing?

Answer: Leverage public places, social media, and existing contacts/networks to recruit a range of participants. Be transparent it’s for research and offer small incentives for their time if possible.

5. Question: What’s the best way to analyze qualitative feedback from guerrilla testing?

Answer: Take detailed notes on reactions, issues, and suggestions. Review recordings to identify trends. Collaborate with your team to extract key takeaways.

6. Question: How long should each guerrilla user testing session be?

Answer: Guerrilla testing sessions are usually 5-10 minutes long. This condensed timeframe respects people’s time while gathering focused feedback.

7. Question: Is it okay to conduct guerrilla tests remotely?

Answer: Yes, remote guerrilla testing via video chat can be effective. But consider occasional in-person testing to capture body language and contextual insights.

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