Get Started: 6 Guerrilla Testing Methods Anyone Can Use

Recently, we wrote about why you should be using guerrilla testing in enterprise situations. It’s fast, effective, and affordable, and it could give you a major leg up in your design and development process. What we didn’t cover off in that piece, however, were suggestions for the techniques themselves — i.e. the actual guerrilla testing methods. Today, we amend that.

Below, Myplanet Designer Jessie Chang has created a list of six different quick, easy, low-cost, minimal assembly required techniques that you can deploy today. No more excuses for not getting started — get your guerrilla tests underway and get the data you need.

Red Route analysis chart
Red Route Analysis example
Red Route Analysis

Use it when: You’re at an impasse with your team in trying to assess priorities — the feature or page used by the most people and the feature or page used the most often.

Materials needed: All you need is Excel or Google Sheets (or even pen, paper, and some coloured pencils).

How to do it: To begin, create a 5 x 5 chart using your spreadsheet maker of choice. On one axis, label the cells according to usage (from used by least number of people to used by most number of people) and on the other axis, label the cells according to exposure (from used by all to used by few). At the high end (most users, most often used), shade the squares in red, shading them down to white at the low end (fewest users, least often used). Once your chart has been created, fill it in with your features or pages according to their known user numbers and usage rates.

Outcomes: The areas for you and your team to focus on (i.e. the biggest priorities) will emerge as the darkest cells, and your areas of lower priority are the lightest shaded cells. Once you know where your priorities lie in terms of impact, you can start to assess costs and benefits more accurately.

 Clickpath example
Clickpath Map example
Clickpath Map

Use it when: There are a few good times to make use of a clickpath map—
  1. When you don’t have access to super fancy heatmap technology
  2. When you’re testing out visual hierarchy on one page (a.k.a. find out what users see first on a page — Where do their eyes naturally gravitate?)
  3. When you want to see where users would click first to find xyz

Materials needed: In keeping with a “make it easy” theme, all this one needs is some printouts and coloured stickers. *Note: You could do this with one a printout and a notepad/spreadsheet, but the finished output is a much better visual artefact/representation/presentation for stakeholders and team members the way I outline below.

How to do it: First, print out two copies of your page. One is put in front of the user and the other is used by you to keep track of interactions. Observe or ask your test user to indicate where they would first interact on the page or ask them to complete a task like find xyz, and then on your copy of the printout, place a mark — in corresponding order — beside all the elements they verbally or physically interact with. Don’t forget to write down that test participants’ name beside their clickpath!

Outcomes: You can continue drawing clickpaths on your sheet while leaving the tester sheet unblemished and in the end, should have a pretty clear idea of where the gaps and flaws in your design are (or you might validate that everything in your design makes sense!). Stickers are a great visual for when you have to present to others, because they make a strong impact, but as noted you can mark it down in a own notebook or on a spreadsheet if you’re doing a series of usability/visual hierarchy tests as well.

Sample code and tree map image
Sample code for Tree Testing,
Tree Testing

Use it when: You need to see if the main navigation / information architecture you created makes sense, or you need to verify if your users can find what they want to find.

Materials needed: This one does require a small (very small!) amount of technical prowess and access to a device for user testing. The only real material is some simple HTML/CSS code. Don’t be scared off by this! It’s very straightforward, I promise. Here! Take this code! I wrote it for you: CODE FOR YOU.

How to do it: Using some lightweight accordion code (like the sample above) and a blank page, create a very simple, low-fi nav for prototyping purposes (just replace “Title” and “Option” with your actual nav options).

Outcomes: Record your test users’ ability to flow through the nav and make note of unexpected hiccups. As a bonus, you can switch a nav heading out on the fly to iterate your test on the fly as issues arise!

Trello board with headings
Card Sorting: with headings
Card Sorting (with headings)

Use it when: There are two ways to use card sorting. The first is for when you already know what your main navigation headings are, but you want to know your IA makes sense to your users by getting their input.

Materials needed: Just grab some paper or sticky notes or fire up a new Trello board.

How to do it: First, create a new Trello board. Then put all your Pages in an “Unsorted Column” and create Lists for your main Nav headings. Once the board is complete, ask test users to place the Unsorted cards into your Nav headings. *Note: You can also do this on a wall or whiteboard with sticky notes as your Pages, just be sure to use sticky notes of one colour for headings and sticky notes of another colour with Page names on them, to help keep the structure clear for users.

Outcomes: Users will either organize the pages as you anticipated or not, and based on the way they structure pages you can confirm your IA or rethink it. 
Trello board with no headings
Card Sorting: without headings
Card Sorting (without headings)

Use it when: The second card sorting method is for when you don’t already have your main nav headers. Again, this is to be used when you want to validate your IA by gathering input from users, so you can be sure you’re creating an IA that makes sense to them.

Materials needed: Paper or sticky notes and a marker, or a fresh, new Trello board.

How to do it: The set up is the same as in the previous example with headings, except this time you’ll leave the List names blank and ask your users to come up with categories that make sense to them. And again, you can also do this on a wall or whiteboard with sticky notes as your Pages, ensuring you use sticky notes of one colour for headings and sticky notes of another colour with Page names on them. Users use the marker to write headings onto the Nav heading sticky notes.

Outcomes: Confirmation of your IA choices. You can even use this if you’ve got headings already in mind, it may to unearth an even more intuitive, better nav heading option.

Paper Prototype Usability Test

Use it when: One of the main reasons we advocate so strongly for guerrilla testing in enterprise environments is we know how tricky buy-in can be. Paper prototypes are a great example of how to show the value in testing without having to get a big investment up front. Use them when you can’t afford an InVision license or an Adobe CC subscription, but you need to test out quick low-fi wireframes or test out. Or, use them when you’re testing out a specific flow or specific components within higher-fidelity comps.

*Note: When it comes to the high-fidelity comps, it can become laborious to design and print out loads of high-fidelity comps, which is why I suggest only targeted flows. Also, if you did enough user testing earlier on, you should only be testing to see if certain visual components make sense anyway!

Materials needed: Printouts of the flow or wireframes you’re testing.

How to do it: There are a few methods for this.

Sketching — Print out a mockup of a phone or a webpage and draw out your screens on these mockups. Then, ask the user to perform a task (sign up for this application, find where the sandals are, etc) and as they interact with elements on each screen, replace that screen with the next screen that follows.

Low-fidelity digital wireframes — Quickly design your flow and print them out onto sheets of paper. Then, ask your users to perform a task and as they interact with the elements on each “screen”, replace that screen with the next in the sequence.

There you have it. Six easy ways to get your guerrilla testing off the ground today. No more excuses and no more missed opportunities to uncover the easy fixes for a better solution to your design problems. Grab your felts, your post-its, and your test users and get going!

Do you have a preferred guerrilla test technique? Be sure to add it in the comments below so we can all start using it!

Written by

Jessie Chang

Jessie Chang

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