The Joys of Guerrilla Testing

Kieran Shah
Oct 10 · 3 min read

Recently, I’ve been involved with a start-up that’s gotten their product into a good position. It’s a travel company focussed on ethical weekend tours for study abroaders. They’re almost ready to put themselves on the market and start selling, however, it’s been entirely created in the spare time of one person.

An impressive feat as it’ll be their first company and, like all beginners, they had no idea what they were doing. After countless hours spent listening to podcasts and playing round with website builders they now have a snazzy looking live site that was even built templateless.

One problem though, it hasn’t been put in front of potential customers.

And this is where I started chatting with them. First, understanding what they’re not sure works on the site. Standard things like:

Do people understand what the company does?

Are people able to navigate and book?

Is the information understandable? Have I missed anything?

Simple questions + no budget = guerrilla testing.

Your customers are always out there somewhere and, in my experience, some of them will have a bit of spare time are up for a short chat. Luckily for me, the target audience is students and so it was off to the student bars I went for insights (and cheap beer).

First silly mistake was to go to a big bar. Plenty of students but everyone’s in a group and it’s really noisy, duh.

Next, to a cafe. Much easier. Although I did run into the awkward situations of going up to lone girls and asking if they’d like a coffee in exchange for a little chat to which I would be instantly denied. While this did hurt my confidence, it was only my personal confidence and I carried on, fuelled instead by my professional confidence.

I managed to sit down with a few people here, speaking with them a little about their experience in studying abroad or looking for tours and then having them imagine they’ve landed on this site to browse tours. I also switched it up by giving no preamble to understand whether it was clear what the site is offering.

A reconstruction of me doing guerrilla testing

Really quickly I managed to learn about different experiences people have had which moulds their thought process in how they undertake these kinds of tasks. One person I spoke with was relentlessly searching for information that gave them peace of mind that this site is legitimate and the people onboard are both qualified and insured to keep them safe. On asking why, he explained that he’s previously been scammed and turned up to a hotel who didn’t have him down after booking through an agency. That’s a real painful experience which has caused him to change his behaviour.

I decided to try a bar again because, why not? This one was smaller and more fruitful than the previous one. One person didn’t have the time but exchanged contact details as he runs a society of people who may want to chat in the future. Great, that’s a possible guerrilla testing panel. And then I continued the chats with anyone that didn’t want to pay £3.70 for a pint.

Here I learned that the main proposition was a real bonus and something that made it stand out from the crowd, but it wasn’t being sold enough. They wanted to know how it’s ethical, what do they do to make it sustainable. Although these messages are on the site, they weren’t impactful enough and they weren’t in places that people were naturally navigating to.

Okay, time to head home.

4 hours. A couple of coffees. A few pints. One hurt ego. And lots learned.

The site had tens and tens of hours put into it prior to this round of testing and was built on many assumptions. But all it takes is just a few more hours to start validating and learning. UX research doesn’t have to be done with a high budget and loads of time, you can start learning with no money and an afternoon.

Go check them out,

Kieran Shah

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