Benefits of ‘Guerrilla’ testing

Posted by: | Posted on: October 25, 2017

I like gorillas: they’re big, hairy and quite human-like. I surely wouldn’t want to test on them – I imagine it wouldn’t be pleasant and would no doubt cause uproar from gorilla subjects as well as the animal rights community. This is why I feel I should differentiate between gorilla testing (as I have seen the term spelled) and guerrilla testing.

Guerrilla testing is a valuable practice of conducting a high level, economical version of usability testing, when timelines are tight. Recently, I’ve conducted numerous guerrilla testing sessions – typically after we’ve completed a large design and validation job and the client has asked us to take “one last look” before they launch their site or mobile app.

Although not as robust as traditional, in-depth usability testing, there is absolute merit in pursuing this type of activity when faced with time constraints. For example, on a recent project, Stamford consultants had conducted a round of usability testing on a web application for a client. Just one week before launch, our client asked us what might be involved in taking “one last look” at the website. Based on the timeline, we suggested guerrilla testing. I prepared for testing, conducted the test sessions with eight participants and wrote up findings and recommendations for a responsive design site, all in two days! It should be noted that I tested the designs on a desktop AND mobile. That’s right, multiple platforms, eight users, documentation, just two days. And thanks to these two days of work, 30 issues were discovered (two of which were critical show stoppers). Our client was able to use the feedback to make last minute design changes before launch.

Just to be clear, I’m not suggesting that guerrilla testing should be used as a replacement for a rigorous user-centred design process. I am, however, suggesting that usability issues often creep in very quickly during the development process and can greatly impact the user experience of a site or app if not addressed. We need to remember that design is an iterative process: although an agency may have conducted a round of usability testing on a development or beta site, it doesn’t automatically qualify that site as being ready to launch.

At Stamford, we encourage each other to “show early, show often” in order to gain constructive feedback and maintain our high standards. I would encourage external project teams responsible for providing products and services for their users to consider this way of thinking as a part of their design process. We’ve proven time and time again that the end user experience will be more dependable the more it’s run through its paces.

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