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Usability Testing Tools for Quick and Early Feedback

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Read Time: 8 min

This is you: a user advocate trying to deliver the best possible User Experience with the work you do.

You know the way to do this is by testing with the end-users of your product but you face some obstacles: maybe you only have a few days to deliver the project? Or your company doesn’t have the budget you need to run some lab usability testing sessions? Maybe they have other plans for their budget or don’t know enough about the benefits of user testing–or worse, they really don’t care.

If you can picture yourself in one of the situations above, believe me, it’s still possible to get feedback to validate your assumptions.

In this post I’m going to explain how you can run usability testing sessions remotely, or in-house, to validate your designs and deliver the best possible User Experience.

Researchers vs. DIY

There is a world of tools online for getting some quick and early feedback. Using these tools will save you time when you think about the process of hiring a researcher to do the job.

Hiring a researcher means you have to dedicate at least a week to prepare for the testing session: they’ll have to understand who your end-users are so they can recruit the right people, plus you’ll have to get them on board with the project and the prototypes you want to use to validate your assumptions. Then, they’ll need to write the research guide and validate that with you. By the end of it, you’ll have spent at least two weeks before you get the final insights.

“Ugh, this is taking ages”

Doing it yourself, using remote usability testing tools, means you can have feedback the following day depending on what you want to test and with how many participants. These tools allow you to select your user-type (so you know you’re targeting the right people) and some of these will allow you to restrict the testing geographically.

Note: I certainly don’t want to disregard the fundamental play researchers have, or should have in our projects. But if you’re on a restricted budget, definitely give these tools a go.

Before You Start

Get your prototype ready to test and think about what you’re trying to learn. Put together a few tasks (I’d suggest a maximum of four or five) participants will be able to complete in no more than half an hour.

It’s very important that you test with users who match your target audience. So if you’re using an online tool or doing some guerrilla testing, make sure you are interviewing the right people; you don’t want to test your designs with someone that won’t be, in reality using your product.

Furthermore, don’t forget that any sensitive material should be reviewed and removed from your prototypes.

Remote User Testing Tools

I’m going to take you through some tools and list the pros and cons. When I’m done, I’d love to hear about your own experiences!

Automated research studies are great if you want quick and early feedback. Can you think of a time when you had the designs ready by Friday and needed some fresh insights by Monday? These tools will gather all the feedback for you and the only thing you’ll need to do is upload a link to your prototype and set a number of tasks and questions.

After each session make sure you ask follow up questions. Questions like 

  • “How was the task?”
  • “Did you find it easy?”
  • “Would you do anything differently?”

This is where you’ll get some qualitative insights on your designs as you won’t be able to see their body language while performing the test.

What Users Do

The basic service at What users do is really simple to use and it’ll get you feedback in no time. Set the tasks, select your audience and voilá–you’ll get videos of users testing your prototypes.


The basic service won’t allow you to triage your audience at a granular level, but it will allow you to define demographics and ask them one online screener question. This should get you some good insights to move forward.

They have a few plans for you to choose from, but if you’re working to a tight budget, think about combining the Bronze plan (5 videos/month) with face-to-face Guerrilla testing around the building or in the street.

“What users do” is recommended by companies around the world and they have a free trial to get you onboard with their services. Go ahead, give it a try and let us know how you found it!

User Testing

The self-serve tests at User Testing can get you results within an hour depending on your target audience.


The process is very similar to What users do; select your audience based on demographics and set up the tasks. User Testing has access to over a million people so you can easily filter your target audience. And one great thing about these tools is that participants will be using their own devices in their environment.

Skype / GoToMeeting ...

Set up a session using Skype, or another chat platform which allows desktop sharing.

Start by asking your friends and family (ones who roughly match your audience) if they want to take part in your study. Also, ask them if they know of someone who would be willing to help.


After putting together a list of participants, set up sessions according to their availability and send out invites (you can use Doodle to help you with scheduling). Don’t forget to ask them to install the platform you think is more adequate prior to your call.

On the day, share the prototype link and tell them to share their desktop with you. Go ahead, start the testing session, ask away!

Note: a nice-to-have (I’d say almost essential) to these sessions is a recording app. QuickTime player is just one example of software you can use to record the session so you can revisit later. If you can’t do this, take notes during the session.

Don’t forget to thank them and offer to buy them a coffee next time you meet!

F2f testing “Guerrilla”

I’ve covered guerrilla sessions in a previous post–it’s an approach I often use during the course of my projects. Guerrilla testing is a good option to help you inform the designs going forward.

You can do it whenever and wherever you want, but it might be a good idea to start with your colleagues at work. If you have a UX researcher in the office, ask for his help–he might have a mailing list of people you can test with, or might know who you should talk to first.

Choose a quiet place in the office and let everyone know where you’ll be seated. Think about how much time you may need for each session and send out an agenda with available slots–you’ll find it easier if you organize in advance so you don’t end up with two participants showing up at the same time.

If you prefer, go around the building and ask people if they have a spare moment to help. Remember, bring your interview guide with space for annotations and take notes during the session.

Other Tools You Can Try

Ethnographic Research

You might need to run some ethnographic research at the beginning of a project to find out about your end user behaviors and needs or the limitations they might have using your product.

Erika Hall, in her post Minimum Viable Ethnography explains how you can use ethnio to run Ethnographic research.


MVT and A/B Testing

Optimizely is great for Multivariate (MVT) and A/B testing. It’s super easy to use and you’ll have real-time access to insights. Create different versions of your pages, select the percentage of users who will see the changes and make informed decisions going forward.



Mouseflow generates heat maps so you can find out about which areas of your website users are interacting with. The coolest thing? You’ll be able to integrate it with your existing platform.



Survey Monkey is a really powerful survey platform. You can customize it to the fullest and choose your audience. You’ll have access to real-time results.

Typeform. I came across Typeform only recently. The way they take us through their services is fantastic and you can tell the tool has tons of potential. 


If you need to know more about the users of your product, know more about a specific product or feature, or want feedback on an event you are promoting, give this tool a whirl.


There’s always opportunity to test with your target audience even if you’re on a low budget.

Discuss with your team what you’re trying to learn and how you’ll do it. After the sessions, share any insight material (videos, data) you have with your stakeholders and the decision-makers in your company–doing so will get them excited to invest in further research.

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