Preparing for Guerilla Usability Testing

Grahani Garibaldi
4 min readNov 18, 2020
SPOILER ALERT: Its not going to be like an actual guerilla warfare.

You’re working as a UX researcher in a company, you want to do a research and your stakeholders said that they don’t have the budget and time to execute your research plan. User research doesn’t always have to be hard. If your company doesn’t have time nor budget for research then guerilla testing can be your alternative. One of the benefits of guerilla usability testing is that it can provide you quick insights and if you need an immediate feedback, especially if you’re working on a B2C product. In short, guerilla testing is a practice where you can obtain insights from users in a limited amount of time.

“In many cases, research is perceived as a very expensive and time-consuming effort that eats up weeks, if not months, of a project.”

–UX Magazine-

When I worked as the only UX researcher, people and my colleagues were not familiar what UX research is nor they ever created a research plan or repository before. It was a startup company and the team was moving fast. Obviously, they didn’t have much time to wait for the research findings. This is when I came up with the idea to do guerilla research. I am sharing tips and a bit of my experiences and what you could have done differently when running guerilla testing.

Defining your users

Who are the targeted users of your product? What kind of participants are you looking for to test the product? If your product is aim for a very specific users (where it requires to ask and gather sensitive information) then guerilla testing maybe isn’t such a good idea. You may want to discuss this with your team or stakeholders what type of users we need to test the product.

Research the venues

Do some research about the venues. Make sure you already have several places in your list also better yet if you’ve been to those places before. What type of people hanging out in those places? when is the peak hour? For example, if you’re targeting particular people like professionals then you might wanna come around 11.30 PM to tag a quite spot where later you might be able to ask your user to do the test but of course this also depends on the circumstances.

Create sufficient tasks

What do you want to test in your product? and are there any particular goals? Guerilla testing might be quick and ‘less hassle’ but having a picture on how you’re gonna run the research still matter. What’s more, do not skip the pilot test as this is a good opportunity to learn more about your test plan plus you will get a picture on how the actual session gonna turns out.

We are asking people in a public place to test our product, chances are they might be already occupied with their own stuff. So why not save their time by choosing the most critical tasks? Keep in mind that you’re asking them to do a ‘free’ favor. Make things simple by not asking them to do too many tasks or asking difficult questions. In my experience, I would limit up to 2–3 tasks only. I have done guerilla testing on my own and it can be a backbreaker. If you can, bring someone to assist you to take notes and record the session. However, don’t forget to ask permission to the participants if you want to take a few shots and recordings, make sure you inform this before the session started.

Approaching participants

Look around and scan for potential participants try to approach those who don’t seem occupied as you might have a better chance. Guerilla testing requires you to be comfortable approaching ‘strangers’ and asking them voluntarily to test your product, during this process you will most likely encounter rejection. There was the time when I was dismissed when asking someone to volunteer and he gave me this frowning look! But I realized that this is part of running a guerilla testing, staying resilient is not an option. So don’t raise that white flag and keep going.

Say thank you

Don’t forget to say thank you at the end of the session. Remember they’re already allocating their time to help you, you might want to offer them a little gift like sweets or chocolates. If you’re conducting the test at some coffee shops then why not buy them a cup of coffee?

Closing and Final Thoughts

Guerilla testing might be agile, practical and requires less effort, you don’t need a sophisticated lab set up or huge cost for guerilla testing. If your company still has no idea what UX research is, guerilla can be a good start to demonstrate the value of your research, nonetheless, it comes with its own shortcomings. There is less you can control when running guerilla. For example, participants might not focus or something else might come up which forces them to abandon the session.

Not to mention you will need to compromise with the results, there can be lack of details in the research findings and you might miss some things which can lead to bias. Everything has its pros and cons. So whatever type of research you’re conducting it is crucial to be aware with its strengths and pitfalls.



Grahani Garibaldi

I am highly inquisitive and still trying to master the art of deduction. Follow me on Twitter @officialgrahani