Usability Testing in Thailand

Update 2018: I started a company that makes user testing in Thailand way easier. Check out Rice Milk Research if you are interested!

Since UX is still a new field for the start up scene in Thailand, conducting a usability test in Thailand can be an interesting experience. As a UX specialist who works in Bangkok, I have conducted multiple usability tests here. These are a few things I’ve learned so far..

User recruitment services won’t help you

For what I’ve seen, if a start up is based in Thailand, a large portion of their user demographic is Thai. If you want to be specific with your participant group and think you can find Thai users on any of those user recruitment services, you are so wrong. (Unless you actually find one then please let me know hehe.) There is not even a Thai term for usability test, which made googling for one even harder.

The closest I’ve gotten to recruiting Thai users was with Canvasflip, an online prototyping tool similar to Invision. They are based in India and is partnered with a user recruitment service in Singapore for online user testing. Still, no Thais. I’m going to take this opportunity to assume that since UX is a new field in the Thai start up scene, it’s even newer for people who are not in the tech industry. Maybe that’s why people didn’t sign up as testers for these services even though they can easily make a lot of money out of it.

Guerrilla Testing can be awkward

Guerrilla testing or the ‘friendly-looking stranger’ method came to the rescue after I’ve given up on finding users from recruitment services. If you don’t already know, Guerrilla testing is basically when you go out on the street and ask strangers to test your app for you. This is a very good and cheap way to get a quick insights and feedback on small design decisions. I did the test at a coffee shop with a sign saying “Help us test our app for 10 minutes and get free coffee!”. With a huge font for the word ‘FREE’, it was not difficult to attract participants.

Although it was cheap, I couldn’t be specific about the skill sets, age range, etc of the strangers who decided to walk up to me. None of the people I interacted with at the Guerrilla testing had done any sort of usability test, knew what it was, or had heard of it before. They had a hard time understanding the concept of a prototype and why things didn’t change when they tapped on some buttons, even after a few rounds of explanation.

‘Think Aloud’ needs some getting used to

One and probably the only important thing I asked them to do was to ‘think aloud’ of whatever was going through their minds when they were testing the app. I gave them a few examples of how think aloud works before each session, and had them practiced it too. Still, when it came to the actual test, participants seemed to be too shy to say things out loud, or to be critical about things. They probably didn’t want to admit that they didn’t understand things too, although it was all completely the faults of our app if they didn’t. I also think that they wouldn’t say that something sucked because they were afraid that it might hurt my feelings. I learned to really elaborate on how nothing can hurt my feelings. Although, I can definitely lose my job if I don’t get their true opinions on the product.

They love to socialize

Guerrilla testings are fast and concise because you don’t want to waste too much of the stranger’s time. However, if you want more detailed insights and feedback from the participants, it won’t work. I conducted a Focus Group testing where I asked the people in the company to refer friends or family members to come test our app at the office. I got a budget of 1000baht (around $30) per participants, and around an hour with each of them. I gave my coworkers some requirements of the age range, management skills, and technical skills of the people they were going to invite.

From the tests, I found out that no matter how old or how low their technical skills were, every single one of them were regular users of Facebook and Line (a Korean messaging app). One of the things I’ve noticed, mostly for those with lower technical skills, was that they only compared our app solely to Facebook and Line. Whatever they didn’t understand about our app, it was because Facebook or Line did it differently. Even how we translated English terms to Thai words differently from Facebook or Line, for instance the term ‘Create’ or ‘Pending’, they got confused. One of my coworker’s mum who was around 60+ years old was even a regular on both of these apps! I’m not complaining though. It was like getting free design references that I know the users will understand ;)

It’s all good!

With all of the things I mentioned, I’m still struggling to get just the right group of target users to test with, but it gets easier every time. Thai people are also very eager to help you improve your product. They don’t make a fuss if suddenly your prototype stops working or when you ask them if you could record their video or their sound for the sessions. Some people didn’t even want the free coffee!

I believe that the key to design something for Thai users is to definitely test your design with Thai users (surprise). Not only that you will learn about how they would interact with your product, you will also get some valuable cultural and social insights as well.

Last thing, if you are looking for an idea to start a company, maybe consider a South East Asian user recruitment service?

Thanks!