Guerrilla Usability Testing | The Ultimate Guide

Guerrilla testing helps gather actionable insights about your UX on a shoe-string budget. Learn how you can leverage the potential of guerrilla usability testing with this article!

Tanvi Moitra
July 22, 2023
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Usability testing is key if you want to ensure your site or app interface is seamless and user-friendly. But UX designers and researchers often skip conducting usability tests due to lack of time and resources. This is where guerrilla usability testing comes into play. It offers a completely DIY approach to usability testing, making it quick and cost-effective. 

Still, guerrilla testing has a bad name despite its success. It became a trend in 2017 and since then it is has been overused by designers and researchers to gain user insights without spending a bomb on set up. 

But it is time to celebrate guerrilla testing and harness its true potential. This article will dive deeper into the nuances of guerrilla testing and help you understand what it is, the ideal time to conduct it and how you can successfully do so. 

What is Guerrilla Usability Testing?

Agile testing methods like guerrilla usability testing are used to assess a website or prototype at different stages of the project's life cycle in order to get high-level input or identify potential UX issues.

Because there is no formal recruitment or requirement for expensive research facilities, this method can be quickly and easily set up and used anywhere (this could be a cafe, park, library etc.).

Guerrilla Testing Example

Imagine you are a UX designer and you have redesigned your new app. Here is how you would conduct a guerrilla test-

  • Make a test version of the website or app by creating an interactive prototype.
  • Visit a nearby Starbucks, choose a good table, and prepare the testing space. You may post a sign telling people that in exchange for their ten minutes of time, they can have a free cup of coffee.
  • Ask potential testers to do a specific task with your prototype.
  • Take note of their interactions and inquire about their experience.
  • Conduct the test for as many users you need.
  • When you return to the office, compile all of the information you have gathered and examine it.
  • After sharing your research with your team, get to work on the usability problems.

Why Should you Conduct Guerilla Usability Testing?

The goal of guerrilla usability testing is to speed up the laborious process of the user testing. The public is recruited to take part in a rapid, on-the-spot guerrilla usability test by a designer, researcher, or anyone designing a product.

To make up for their lack of numbers and resources, tiny groups of armed forces would launch sudden, fast attacks on predetermined targets, which is how the name "guerrilla" first came to be used. Since then, the term has come to mean any task carried out in an unplanned, efficient, and impromptu manner.

If the following fundamental assumptions are true about usability testing:

  • Finding willing respondents can be a lengthy process.
  • It is challenging to plan testing sessions in a workplace or usability lab.
  • Participants' time-based compensation takes a portion of the budget.

These presumptions are contested by guerrilla usability testing because it involves:

  • Directly inviting the general public to take part in usability tests
  • Performing the test on the spot
  • Giving the respondents a token of appreciation for their time in exchange (for example, coupons, free coffee or snacks etc.)

Guerrilla testing is simple and easy. But that does not mean it will not help you gather actionable insights like other UX research methods. 


The Ideal Time to Conduct Guerrilla Usability Testing

Guerrilla testing is best used when your app or site is in its formative stages. It helps validate presumptions and pinpoint fundamental usability issues at a very early stage of the design process. It should be used in scenarios where you need data quickly and you don’t want to use a formal UX research method for it.

Often times, designers and researchers have innate assumptions about their users. Guerrilla testing opens them up to new and detailed user data which either validate these assumptions or destroy them. 

Moreover, it is difficult to get a go ahead from stakeholders to devote time and resources to user testing. You can demonstrate the benefit of sharing your product with users if you can produce eye-opening results at the prototyping stage without the extravagant spending required for conventional UX research methods. 

When you need more detailed input on the overall usability of your designs, it is preferable to test a larger group of individuals in a more structured manner. 

Advantages of Guerrilla Testing

Guerrilla testing is excellent for: 

  • Finding important usability issues early in the process of product design.
  • During design sprints, testing assumptions and hypotheses. Guerrilla testing can be a quick and simple technique to verify such theories.
  • Validating non-specialized tasks (like signing up for a service or placing an order in an online store).
  • Getting rapid baseline data on the performance of an existing product (your main competitors).

Limitations of Guerrilla Testing

  • To use a product, domain-specific expertise is necessary (for example, to complete specific tasks). You cannot assume that everyone you speak to possesses the necessary abilities.
  • To conduct testing, a particular environment is needed (for example, testing can only be done in a given location).

Methods to Conduct a Guerrilla Test

Guerrilla tests can be conducted in many ways, some of which are- 

1. 5 Second Test

It is a UX research method which lets you observe what users learn and how they respond to a design in the first five seconds (this can be increased to 120 seconds). They are frequently used to determine if web pages effectively convey their intended message and if call to actions are visible to the users. 

2. Qualitative Usability Testing

You can obtain data, findings, and anecdotes regarding users and their behavior. Guerrilla usability testing is a good way to do qualitative usability testing and find usability problems with your product. 

3. Moderated Usability Testing

In this method of assessing usability, a trained facilitator or moderator actively participates and uses a test script to tell the user what to do while being tested. In order to acquire insights, the moderator guides participants through a guided test while recording their interactions with the product. 

4. Preference Test

A participant in this kind of testing is given a variety of design possibilities and asked to select one. Then, they are questioned on their decision-making process. This is an excellent way to gather feedback early on and make modifications as necessary. 

How to Conduct a Guerrilla Usability Test

We have now established that guerrilla usability testing is a great technique to quickly test your solutions with actual people. 

Here are some guidelines and instructions you can use to conduct a successful guerrilla test, including advice on how to schedule your testing sessions, choose the best participants, and more.

Step 1- Plan the Guerrilla Test

Guerrilla usability testing is less resource-intensive than conventional user testing, but it still requires careful planning. Prepare by drafting a script for your testing session before addressing the participants. Consider the areas you should test, the length of the study, and the tasks that you want the respondents to perform.

Create a realistic prototype first, then test it with people. Depending on where you are in the design phase, the fidelity of your guerilla testing prototype will vary. Some designers advise using a paper prototype or drawings if you intend to test your product very early.

Map out the precise tasks that the users will be performing once you have your prototype. Apply the usual guidelines for writing usability tasks: 1) make your list of tasks (they should be brief and straightforward), 2) steer clear of leading questions, and 3) utilize the fewest steps possible. Since participants in guerrilla testing will not have the same context on your product as they would in a traditional, planned test; simplicity is extremely crucial.

Therefore, be certain that none of your research's goals call for prior knowledge of any particular product feature. To be safe, you may even test it out on a friend or relative. 

Finally, restrict the test's domain so that it primarily focuses on a single primary user purpose. It should not take more than 10 to 15 minutes to complete, and the more specific your testing hypothesis, the simpler it will be to compare the results of different tests and identify trends.

Step 2- Find the Right Respondents and Location

Finding test participants in public settings is the primary differentiator of guerilla testing, therefore completing this step correctly is crucial. One potential drawback of the guerrilla strategy is that your test subjects might not accurately reflect your target audience, which reduces the validity of your findings.

Here are some pointers for selecting the appropriate participants:

1) Try to find a relaxing location

Respondents who are hurried do not make the best candidates. Find a location where individuals will have some free time. The most common location for guerilla tests is cafes. 

2) Step into the shoes of your target audience

Consider where your target audience may hang out if you were them. If you are testing an online grocery app, capture folks leaving the grocery stores. An restaurant would be the ideal location for a food delivery app.

Get some background information. Before you begin the test, ask a few questions to determine whether the subjects are the kind of people who would use your product. For example, how frequently do you shop online? Do the apps you use solve your painpoints?

3) Consider conducting your search online

Spend time on forums or subreddits where your target audience is present, and then use a platform like Qatalyst to publish a link or QR code to your usability test. 


Step 3- Conduct the Guerrilla Test Successfully

Once you have identified a respondent who appears to suit your desired user profile, the actual test should proceed as usual. Encourage your participants to think-aloud, reserve open-ended inquiries till the end, and observe any recurring patterns in user behavior.

When perfecting your in-field testing technique, keep the following additional considerations in mind-

1) Be careful to have a solid internet connection: Don’t let an unstable internet connection be the reason of delay or frustration.

2) Provide additional information: When approaching someone, be sure to explain user testing in general as well as the test scenario in detail. 

3) Reward your participants: You must be thinking that “If I had this kind of a budget, why would I conduct a guerrilla test?” Well, a reward could be as small as free cup of coffee or gift certificate. It shows that you appreciate the person’s time and effort.

4) Bring a research partner along: Between writing notes, keeping people engaged, and making sure your laptop is properly set-up, guerrilla testing alone can feel like spinning plates. So get a colleague to come with you and split the tasks. One extra person is enough—more people can make participants feel daunted.

Need Quick Insights on a Shoe-String Budget? Go Guerrilla!

Designers most frequently cite time and financial constraints as justifications for bypassing user testing. In spite of this, these are paradoxically the two most crucial justifications for testing. Guerrilla testing is still a vast improvement over doing no testing at all if remote usability testing is not an option. In addition, it provides an opportunity to leave the workplace and interact with potential customers, which is both beneficial and enjoyable.


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Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
Want to conduct lean and unbiased research? Try out Entropik's tech behavioral research platform today!
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Author Bio

Tanvi Moitra
Tanvi can usually be found anxiously treading the office floor to get her content reviewed, here at Entropik. When not absorbed by researching and writing, she loves to read, go for a swim, play badminton, paint, and otherwise spend too much time bingeing on the Office and cuddling her German Shepherd, Whiskey. An absolute foodie, she would love to cook and bake for you and even give you the best dessert suggestions in the office.

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