Guerilla Usability Testing

When most people think of usability testing, they tend to think of lab settings, where individuals seated at computers are following task, and being monitored by usability practitioners. However, not all usability testing take place in lab settings, at least not anymore. There are a number of testing methods being utilized by evaluators in the Usability community today. One of the methods that I found interesting was Guerilla Usability testing. This approach is different from the traditional lab setting. It’s a formative style of testing, that usually involves evaluators going out, into public settings (e.g. malls, cafes, stores, libraries, etc.) where they do impromptu analysis. What’s nice is that, “Guerilla research test are…[fast], …[low]-cost methods that provide sufficient enough insights to make informed decisions.”(Unger, Wartel, 2011, On the other hand, Traditional lab testing, involves more planning, is time consuming and can be a lot more expensive. When evaluators who go out into the real world to implement these test, they only need to bring a few items onsite: usually a laptop with usability testing software and in some cases an camera). This is what makes this testing method both portable and cost effective. Traditional lab testing methods tend to base their results on quantitative data, but Guerilla testing methods “…usually focus on qualitative data for design insight rather than statistical validity.” (

After reading a number of articles on Guerilla style testing methods, it appears as though more usability designers and practitioners are embracing Guerilla usability testing. Marcin Treder (a former UX Designer) stated that, “In the User Experience Design world Guerilla Methods somehow became known after the famous book ‘Don’t make me think’ [written] by Steve Krug,… encouraged designers to do [early] research [testing]…. [Krug] Indicated that it’s better to check your product with one person than not check it at all.”(Treder, 2011, 37 ,

When implementing Guerilla testing it is recommended that the test be short, ranging somewhere between 15-45 minutes and also, testing somewhere between 5-15 participants. Unger and Warfel (Usability professionals) also indicated that “Guerilla recruitment methods do not often benefit from multiple rounds of candidate filtering; in many cases, the user base for… [the] research may be as basic as a group of people who you know are available.” (Unger and Warfel, 2011, para 10,

Like any other test method, Guerilla usability testing has both pros and cons. For example, when it comes to Pros, its 1. Quick and easy to implement, 2. Anybody can use it as a testing method and, 3. Its qualitative data can help tremendously, while a design/product is in its development stage. Its Cons can include 1. Personal biases reflected in testing, and  2. its less statistical/quantitative in nature. These are just a few examples of the pros and cons that members within the usability community have identified.

As I have gotten to learn more about Guerilla Usability testing, I have come to recognize that not only, is it convenient and economical, but also a very valuable tool. What’s nice about this particular style of testing is that it is implemented during the early stages of a design/product’s development. There is still value in doing in lab testing and it is still recommended by most Usability professionals, but based on my research, the UX community also see’s value in implementing guerilla testing as well. This fairly new method of testing will continue to benefit many more businesses and organizations to come, if they choose to embrace it.

By: K. Jackson