How to do user testing for free
One of the common reasons for teams or companies not doing frequent user testing and research is the cost. There are dozens of services available today that will help you setup user interviews, usability tests and anything else you can imagine. The problem is that these tools can often be cost prohibitive. How will we get people to try our product or give us feedback if we don’t pay them?
But paying for feedback is not required. Sure, it may be easier but there are plenty of obvious (and some not-so-obvious) methods and channels to find people. Below are a few examples I have personally used with success.
Long live email! Email should be your first choice to find users to talk to and get feedback. Find existing or past users who fit your profile and email them (preferably from your own email and not a generic one).
Find users who are talking about your product or your area of focus on Twitter. Reach out to them directly and ask for feedback. I’ve had dozens of interactions through DM with users. It may seem creepy and weird at first but you’ll get over that quickly when you realize that this is actually working.
Niche Message Board Communities
Yes, online message boards are still a thing. Find the most active ones for your particular focus area and sign up. Find any conversations happening that are related to what you are interested in and private message users who are discussing those things. You can also create new threads asking directly for feedback or people to talk to. These are people who are already very passionate about the topic and are more than likely willing to talk about their experiences.
There is a subreddit for everything. Find one in your industry and follow the same steps as the message board above.
Look for Facebook or Linkedin groups related to what you are interested in. Again these are people who are already engaging in discussion around the topic and will be more willing to offer you their thoughts and input.
I was really skeptical about this approach working but I’m 2 for 2 on this working — and I’m still alive to tell the tale. Write an ad offering to buy coffee for anyone who has recently done xyz (or whatever your criteria may be). But please be careful about meeting with internet strangers in real life.