User testing is critical for building a good product. Watching users interact with your product in real-time can be very enlightening. Experiencing what a user will go through when using your product, gives you insights on how to improve it. It’s painful to watch users get stuck, but it’s also key to building a product with minimal friction. It’s no surprise that user research is an integral part of the development process of many products. The problem is, user research is usually very expensive. Offers start at thousands of dollars and can easily end up as hundreds of thousands. While the services at this price range might be very comprehensive, most startups can’t afford them. Some startups are lucky enough to be able to tap into online communities and ask for feedback, but that is very hard to do early on in your startup when no one knows or cares about your product.
So what are your options if you can not afford full-scale user research or community outreach? Should you give up on doing it all together? The answer is No.
This is the exact situation I found myself in recently. My startup could not afford a full-fledged user research budget, yet I was not willing to give up the opportunity to interact with potential users before launching the product. Instead, I took a different approach which will be detailed in this article.
TL;DR; Using Fiverr, a freelance services marketplace focusing on small tasks, I managed to run usability testing for a mere $375 and get tremendous value out of it.
The example I give here is for testing a developer product, but this is applicable for almost every new product or service you are launching. So think about how this could apply to your product.
Here are the steps I took:
1) Define your user and use case
In order to do usability testing you first need to define who your users are, and what are they trying to achieve with your product. This is important because you’ll want to reach out to this type of user and ask them to perform actions to achieve the goals you’ve set. For me, the answer was simple – At Reshuffle, my startup, we are building a product for developers, which will increase productivity when building new web apps and APIs.
The point of user research, and specifically usability testing, is to get you in front of your audience and see how they use your product in real life. This brings us to step two.
2) Find and engage potential users
Now that I defined my user and use case, I needed to find developers and ask them to build new web apps using Reshuffle. I could go and ask my developer friends to build an app – but that would be counterproductive. Friends will usually tell you that your product is great, in order to keep being your friends. You need to pick someone with a strong willingness to use your product, but who will also be impartial and give you honest and direct feedback.
This was my mindset when I went into Fiverr and hired 5 developers to build web apps with Reshuffle. The developers were paid $20-$50 dollars to build simple single page apps. What I didn’t tell them, is that I’m the co-founder and CPO of Reshuffle. That ensures that these developers will not hesitate to give me honest feedback on what is blocking them.
It’s critical that these are developers who do this for a living, day in and day out.
All I needed to do next was shut up and listen.
3) Listen and learn
The first thing that hits you when you run usability testing, is that real life is not as easy as you imagine it to be from your cozy office. Real-life users run into problems that you couldn’t imagine.
Now is the time to suppress that internal “it works on my computer!!” scream you have in your mind and start working these issues out. Remember to document all the issues you find and the methods you used to solve them. These observations will be critical in the next stage.
Another interesting insight we got, was how wrong our assumptions were, regarding user internet speed. What took us 8 seconds to download in the silicon valley, took multiple minutes to download elsewhere. So while you’re thinking it takes users 10 seconds to get set up, you run into this:
Do not get discouraged, It not all back feedback – every once in a while, you get some positive feedback, and that is awesome too.
Now, time for the critical and final step. Improving your product.
4) Improve and iterate
This is where it all comes together, by taking in the feedback you received and improving your product based on it:
- Users got confused on how to use the product, so we improved the onboarding and documentation.
- We learned that it takes a long time to download our product, so we removed redundant packages.
- We found out that developers needed features that we never even considered, so we built these.
We made our product better, and we got back to our users (existing and new ones from Fiverr) to validate that we’ve done it right.
Rinse and repeat
As I previously mentioned this is not specific for developer products – If your product is a tool for designers, hire a designer to create a logo using your tool. If your product is for drivers, get a Lyft or Uber driver to try it out. If it is a service for games, talk to a Twitch streamer. When I worked at Twitch, I learned that all the major game developers do that all the time – While they can not disguise they that are the game creators, they can certainly get first-hand feedback from potential avid users.
So many people joining the gig economy, and are willing to test your product today. It’s super affordable and usually, you get to work with some great people.
User research is much more than usability testing, and you will probably want to run more full-fledged projects in the future. But if you are building a product and do not have the budget to do that just yet, do not despair. Using services like Fiverr opens up a fast and easy way to get yourself in front of your users, enabling you to make your product and service so much better.
To conclude, at Reshuffle we empower developers to build web apps and APIs faster – Fiverr helped us build a better product by getting early feedback on our own product.
Amir Shevat is the co-founder and Chief Product Officer at Reshuffle.com. Previously, Amir was the VP of Product at Amazon’s Twitch, Director of Developer Relations at Slack, Head of scalable developer programs at Google, and Developer Advocate at Microsoft.