You dont always need a lab for usability tests
There is a great alternative to in-lab testing – ‘Coffee Shop’ guerilla usability tests. All you need is a laptop, specific questions and goals, a friendly personality and a hand full of $5 gift cards. The benefits of this type of testing are that you don’t have to recruit heavily or use expensive resources and you can run through many iterations (five to ten users per iteration) in one week with out heavy investments in time and capital.
Without the benefit of a controlled “lab” environment, it is very important that you know what you are testing with each test adn the limitations of the environment you will be testing in. Be very precise with these tests and have a clear set of goals, specify your methodology and target audience, and have a strategy to measure your results.
- Start with unrelated questions. It’s Important to start by making the user feel comfortable by providing some background and discussing various subjects with them, such as their hobbies and interests.
- Let the user know what’s going to happen before you do it. For example, “I’m going to show the homepage.”
- Encourage the user to explore and explain their experience.
- Be very careful not to lead the subjects. Ask open questions and LISTEN!
- Make it clear to the test subject that there are no wrong answers.
- Avoid ‘We’, ‘Test’ or ‘Survey’ at all costs. People don’t like to feel that they are being tested or are conducting surveys. They also don’t like the suggestion that you are not alone in conducting the test.
- Do use the words: ‘I’, ‘Help’ and ‘Opinion’. People LOVE to help and offer up their opions.
- A gift card can help sway the user your way if they are undecided about helping or offering an opinion.
- Try not to take notes during the test.
Starbucks is a great place to carry out the tests as their customer base often lends itself to a web savvy crowd and corporate types alike.