10 Tips for user experience testing on a budget

Usability testing is very vital especially when you are rolling out a new website. Be it that you are rolling out a product or service marketing website, educational website or an entertainment website, increasing the usability of the site is a great idea as it determines the rate of your visitors satisfaction, which in turn determines the level of sales or subscriptions you will have on the site. Additionally, when it comes to business savings, usability testing can help save you money used in development, maintenance and support costs.

However, traditional usability testing is quite expensive and can cost in upwards of thousands of dollars. But it does not have to cost you this much these days. Many organizations still think that usability testing has to take weeks to conduct and be undertaken in an expensively equipped lab. This is not the case today. Today, you do not need expensive prototypes, groups of participants, or even professional recruitment.

Here are some of the top ten tips that can help you undertake successful user testing even when on a budget;

1. Use everyone that is at your disposal

This is one of the greatest ways in which you can undertake usability testing at a low cost. For many reasons, everyone at your disposal most likely uses the web but in different ways. They therefore have different experiences across every site that they visit or use. This makes them very good references for you to base your test. Ask your close relatives, colleagues or friends about the site's usability and you will be shocked at the varying feedback you will receive. Different opinions from all these individuals will help you understand the different ways in which people think after using the same site; some that you would never have considered. Plus, this is free.

2. There is n need to buy expensive design tools

Instead of going for the expensive design tools that will only make your budget double or triple, you can opt for the basic pencil, pen and paper. Using paper and whiteboard for designing is one of the best ways to create a design and this can be incredibly collaborative. You can then use presentation tools such as PowerPoint or Keynote to formally present the design.

3. Silverback and Morae

Another great way to save your bucks on usability testing is by doing it on your own. You can recruit some people at a local tech meeting or down at the coffee shop around the corner to interact with your site on video and give some feedback. In fact, this is one of our favorite ways of doing usability testing. By walking down to a local Starbucks with a stack of gift cards and requesting participants to give quick feedback about the UX of an app and get free coffee, we get to receive un-biased face-to-face feedback. Silverback and Morae are great programs designed for guerilla testing by recording what users are doing on screen, their facial expressions as they interact with the site, and what they are saying about it while at it.

4. You can hire freelance design resources online

You can hire designers and writes on online websites such as fiverr and Upwork for design reviews. These sites charge pretty much as low as $5 for a gig. Keep in mind that your results will vary, but you will also be able to utilize these services to negotiate with professionals.

5. Go for online tools for remote usability testing

If just asking anybody out there about your design is not the best option for you, then consider using some online services to do the testing for you. Different online tools will charge you differently depending on the type of service or plan they have. Some tools will offer you a monthly plan or fixed cost per project and then provide you with user testing services as well as users to test your design. With an exposure to these many users per test, you will be able to find what could be wrong with your design.

6. Test from your desk

With the modern-day technology, you can save on time and money by testing your design with some real-life users while operating remotely from your desk. Simply use a phone to talk to your participants while at the same time using screen-sharing software to see what they are doing and how they actually respond. Some inexpensive products such as Adobe Acrobat Connect Pro can really help with this. They allow you to conduct real-time face-to-face tests while at a different location from your user. They can also enable you to set up an automated test and simply collect the results of it when it's convenient for you to do so.

7. Use your imagination

You can opt to create a persona that represents your website's user. Many people have recommended the use of this idea for usability testing but few people seem to actually practice it. Somehow, this idea is a little crazy to some people but if you can be able to effectively carry it out, you will realize that it actually isn't crazy. By creating imaginary personas of your website's core demographic, you will be able to build and understand the site from a user's perspective. This can be a great eye opener as you may be able to see things you wouldn't have identified before.

8. Use fewer resources

Contrary to the traditional opinion that usability testing has to include testing many people to get the right results, usability testing today does not have to be all that hectic. Testing more individuals means incurring more testing costs, which is what you want to cut down on because you are on a budget. For some reason, many people still think that you need dozens, if not hundreds, of testers to get a good insight on the usability of their sites. This is however not necessarily the case. Five to ten is an ideal number of users to test on. So, if you are trapped on resources, do not scratch your head off.

9. Testing location

Where you undertake the usability tests for your site will greatly determine your testing costs. As discussed earlier, one great way to save on testing costs is by testing remotely from your office. However, if you really feel there is need for a face-to-face approach testing, then you can invite users into your office. If your location is not convenient, then be creative and use other approaches. For example, you can grab or approach people in the streets or cafes. These places are very much less expensive as compared to hiring purpose-built labs that will still indicate the areas you need to focus on correcting or improving.

10. Use social media

Social media is your number one resource for a wide range of information and opinions. If you are tired of being stumped while looking for testers, which are sometimes overly expensive and unreliable, you can opt to use social media to test your design. Today, almost everyone has a Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other social media account. You can rope in all your friends and acquaintances to start the testing online and with a wide coverage; you will get some really meaningful results.

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