Guerilla Testing – Ad Hoc Usability Testing

Thursday, 15 March, 2018

Is there anyone in this whole wide world who is not familiar with the importance of software testing and all benefits that software testing brings?
Today, it is simply unimaginable to release a product without thoroughly testing it. The risk is too high.

We talked before about various types of testing, and we mentioned Usability testing. Let’s remind ourselves what is Usability testing and let’s discover which role in Usability testing holds Guerilla testing.

Yes to the software testing

Say yes to testing.

What is Usability Testing?

Conducting Usability testing means to evaluate a product or service by testing it with real users. This testing takes place before coding, so all problems are visible on time. Because of that, expenses are reduced, time is saved, and there is no impact on the project schedule.

In Usability testing, during the test session, participants will try to complete some typical tasks. The goal is to identify any usability problems and see how participants satisfied with the product are.

During the testing, you should collect few useful data. Are participants able to complete requested tasks? How long will take until participants complete task? Are they satisfied with your product? When learning that, you will be able to adapt and improve user performance and satisfaction.

The problem is, all methods for conducting UX testing are time and resource-consuming, and that prevents from testing in the first place. But, what if there is a way for performing UX testing that gives great insights, without money invest? There is. We call it Guerilla testing.

It's important that users are satisfied with your product

Your first task – user satisfaction.

What is Guerilla Testing?

Guerilla testing is a great way to test your product quickly, with not at all or with minimal costs. It basically means to go into public places, such as coffee shops, shopping centres, train stations etc. and offer people to try test prototype of your product.

In this kind of testing session, there are few basic steps: first, approach to the person you find interesting for your testing. If they agree to participate in your research, give them few scenarios to do, observe how they manage and ask for feedback about their experience. In the end, reward them somehow, at least with free coffee :)
Remember, this testing shouldn’t last longer than 10 or 15 minutes, and you should focus on vital research objectives. Gathered information will provide sufficient amount of insights to make informed strategic decisions for future of the project.

Participants are most important part of Guerilla-testing

Testing first, rewarding second.

Guerilla Testing Step by Step


Yes, Guerilla testing is meant to be ad hoc, but it asks quality preparation. Only then it will be useful. There will be no positive outcome if testing sessions are not well planned and executed. Guerilla testing might be a less formal way of testing, but it doesn’t mean that it will not provide any reliable insights.

Know Your Objective

There is no point in collecting data if you don’t know why those data are collected. That is the general rule, no matter what testing technique you use.
If you don’t know what are you looking for, you won’t gain sufficient insights after the test session. There is no need for an extra detailed plan, but on the other side, it is necessary to have clear image what you expect to get from your research.

Ensure Interactive Prototype

Guerilla testing can be done with almost anything, just with few concept scratches drawn on the paper. But, this actually isn’t the right way to go, because in that way testers will not experience a product in real life. Although you don’t have finished product, make sure to have a prototype that testers can feel. The more product feels real; the more valuable will be feedback you’ll receive.

Location and Audience Matters

Your audience will determine location. You need to pick a place where your desired audience spends time. Ensure relaxed environment, with no stress and rush.
Find out something about people that will test your product. Make sure that they are the type of person who may use your product after releasing it.
Also, always be ready to adapt to different unplanned situations – losing Wi-Fi signal, noisy environment, shortened session etc.

Audience and location matters in Guerilla testing

Location and audience matters.

Select Scenarios Wisely

Parts of prototype you select for testing determinate will findings be useful or not. It is clear that testing everything at once is impossible, so pick wisely.
Think about all crucial things people should be able to do in your product. Write down the list of tasks. After that, prioritise them and decide what to test. Use that tasks to create scenarios.

Speaking of scenarios – setting quality scenario means that users can understand and figure it out easily. Several things determine what good scenario is. First, participants need to relate to it easily. It has to describe a problem, with a reasonable amount of details, but without giving clues how to resolve it.

Introduce Yourself Properly

While approaching potential testers, introduce yourself, say what is that you are testing, how long will testing last, and announce the reward. If nothing else, that will make people interested :)
With adequately introducing yourself, and giving precise information about you, your company and product under test, you will gain trust in the eyes of participants.

Introduce yourself before testing

Introducing yourself is always a good start.

While Running Testing Session

Make sure that participants always know what’s happening. Don’t allow them to feel like they are under test here, instead of the product itself. Develop trust because responses will be more honest that way. Distance yourself from the product, because participants might think that giving critics could hurt your feelings. Encourage participants to try new things, because that is a clear picture of how real users will interact with your product.

To make the pleasant environment, don’t take too many notes. Participants will feel uncomfortable. The solution is recording the session. There are few specific tools for Guerilla testing you can use, for example, UX Recorder or Silverback.

Oh, and stick with time you agreed with participants. People are in a hurry, they separate time to help you, but don’t take advantage of it.

Analyse Data

After conducting the session, analyse data you have gathered. But keep in mind, don’t get too busy with every detail user might find confusing. Here, it’s all about finding and fixing the most severe problems.

Repeat sessions that participant went through and notice spots where they get stuck and spots that grabbed their attention.

Compare the difference between path you imagined participant would take with actual path participant took. It might surprise you how much difference there is.

Fix the Major Problems

After testing, you’ll come up with the list of usability issues. Focus on fixing most essential problems that majority of users came across.

Before implementing a solution, create a prototype and test it again to make sure that solution is the best possible one acceptable for users. In this way, you prevent unnecessary reworks and save money. Also, solutions you came up should be easy to implement.

Keep in mind, don’t go beyond the problems you occurred in testing.

Don’t Rely Exclusively on Guerilla

Guerilla testing is not a method that can entirely replace all other types of UX testing. The smartest way to test product is to combine all that you have discovered from Guerilla testing with other research data such as user interviews, remote Usability testing or A/B testing.
When combining results, they are more valuable and you can get them faster.

Final Word

Guerilla testing is a great way to test your product in early stage and refining the user experience. By conducting it, you can collect valuable insights, without spending much money or time.

Be aware, it is not the definitive way of testing, but it will give you enough information to make some valid decision about future of your project. Look at it as part of your overall Usability testing strategy.

Where do you stand with Guerilla testing? Did you ever conduct it or participate as a tester? Share your experience with us!

Ana Lozančić

Ana is a content Marketing specialist and blogger. She graduated in Faculty of humanities and social sciences. She enjoys learning and applying knowledge about marketing and social media, covering latest trends and topics about software development subjects.

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