Gorilla User Testing: Using Primates To Advance Human-Centered Design

Jamal Nichols
Truth About Design
Published in
5 min readApr 1, 2019

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In the world of UX Design, Guerrilla User Testing is a well-known and popular technique for gathering user research on a shoestring budget.

A lesser known but no less effective technique is the practice of Gorilla User Testing.

The two are often confused because of the similarities in the naming, however, Gorilla User Testing is a much older technique. Donald Norman was a big proponent of Gorilla User Testing during his time at Apple, and it was later perfected by Steve Jobs.

Gorilla User Testing is an effective way of testing your UX designs. Below we will go into what Gorilla User Testing is, its history, and how to practice it in a modern agile UX environment.

What is Gorilla User Testing

Gorilla User Testing is the practice of using primates to discover latent user needs in humans. This is extremely useful in exposing user needs that humans in modern society have lost awareness of. Primates and humans share up to 99.8% of the same DNA, so it makes perfect sense to use primates for this purpose.

It doesn’t have to be gorillas, it can be any higher primate. However, gorillas have shown an exceptional ability to articulate their user needs, as evidenced by the photo below:

Above: Silverback Gorilla elaborating on his experience using Amazon Prime

History Of Gorilla User Testing

Donald Norman pioneered gorilla user testing in the 1990s.

I’ll let Donald tell the story himself:

Steve Jobs then adopted and popularized gorilla user testing after his return to Apple.

Now that we understand a bit more about the origins of Gorilla User Testing, let’s discuss some of its advantages:

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