Find Usability Testers when Designing a Website

User testing is an important part of developing a new website or redesigning an existing website, but when you're ready to test your website, the real trick is to actually find and convince a bunch of people to be willing guinea pigs for your test. If your target audience is 25-to-40-year-old busy professionals, you may have a harder time recruiting people away from their jobs and families than if your target audience doesn’t work in the 9-to-5 world or has flexible work hours.

If your client has an established clientele, coming up with a list of people to call on is fairly easy. Simply cull its customer database for people in your local area (unless you are conducting tests in a few cities). The best approach is to call these people directly. In this impersonal online world, people respond warmly to a personal phone call — especially when they are made to feel that their opinions count. For new websites that have no clientele yet, try finding users online through sites like CraigsList or recruiting on Facebook.

Friends and family may be more lenient in their feedback because they don’t want to hurt your feelings. If you are using this group, remind them that the only way they can help is to be honest and forthcoming with their feedback.

After you identify a list of testers, you have to sell them on the idea of taking time out of their day to come test, or alternatively, you can bring the test to them. Here is a handy, consolidated list of a few tactics that can be successful:

  • Set a time limit. Put a time limit on the user test so people know what they’re committing to, and schedule a time that’s convenient for them. For example, tell a potential tester that the test portion only takes one hour, plus an extra half hour for setup and conclusion. If they come in at 1:30 in the afternoon, they can be out by 3:00 p.m.

    Make sure you follow through with the promised schedule. If you don’t finish all the tasks in one hour, it’s your loss. Conclude the test and thank them for their time. If you’re almost finished, however, the user usually offers to stay.

  • Give out swag. In appreciation of their participation, offer small gifts at the end of the test. Most companies have products or services that may be valuable as gift items, like event passes, software, or apparel. Or they have marketing items like nice computer totes they can offer.

  • Pay people. Depending on your client’s “awesomeness” factor (a car-part manufacturer may be less fun for test participants than a high-profile entertainment company), you most likely will also need to pay people in addition to giving out swag. Depending on your market, pay them a reasonable hourly rate. Provide appetizers and drinks, and they are more than happy.

  • Send out thank-you cards. After the test, send users a thank-you card in the mail. Although this isn’t a sales tactic to sway people to come in, it’s a great way to build good faith for the future. You may be able to call on these people again, or use them as references to find other testers later.

Another testing method to consider is online testing, whereby your users can log in to a website and test from the convenience of their location.

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