Guerrilla UX Research
Executing UX Research when launching a digital product is very important so we can design based on data, and not just based on assumptions. Not doing research would mean taking the risk of carrying out all the work that means developing a digital product for it not to solve user problems.
Nowadays this is less and less usual, since companies have already understood that this is a vital step to take for product success. Nevertheless, we do not always have enough time or resources needed to carry out deep research.
What is Guerrilla UX Research?
Guerrilla UX Research consists of developing user research methods, such as user testing, just that we slightly modify it in order to reduce time and cost. For example, if we perform a user interview, we might need to change the objective we are trying to achieve, the sample selection or the interview guide.
While we are carrying out guerrilla UX research we might lose some accuracy on the results we obtain, but keeping balance is key to obtaining enough useful information so that designs can be based on data and not just assumptions.
This method’s main characteristic is that participants are found wherever possible, with no great previous preparation, and tests are usually less formal than during an ordinary research. For example, we can ask clients of a store that is related to our product, random people walking down the street or even workers within the company.
Using this approach has two big advantages: investment and time spent are much lower than those of a conventional research process.
Nevertheless, the biggest disadvantage against guerrilla research is that, since we are not recruiting users that fit the product’s target audience, there is a risk we might not find the actual problems on it.
When should we carry out guerrilla UX Research?
The use of this method is appropriate if the scope of the research that we want to perform is defined and reduced. An example of this situation may be during the initial phases of a project, when executing concept testing with wireframes or mockups. Other possible situations may also be at the beginning of a project, when we need to make decisions about specific tasks that the user will need to solve.
The recommended way of using this kind of tests is to assess specific and short processes, plus the test can be taken care of without a large consumption of time or resources. Also, this method will be more efficient if the product we are designing is oriented to the general public, since it will be much easier to find participants.
On the other hand, this method is not recommended if we are dealing with dedicated subjects or really specific needs, such as health, politics, if we need expert people in a specific area or if the experiences that we want to test depend on a really particular context.
How to carry out guerrilla UX Research?
Even if it is a much faster method, guerrilla research must also be planned. Just as we plan user testing we need to plan guerrilla UX Research, we just need to adapt to the method. So then the main steps will be the same as in regular user UX Research, but we need to implement them in a way that they can be taken care of faster and that take less economic costs. These are the steps to take:
- Determine the objective. The same way we would do it with any other research method, the first step is to establish what we need to find out. Regarding guerrilla research, objectives need to be really specific, bold and explicit.
- Determine the participants. Even if during guerrilla research the users that participate are from a general audience, we can describe generally the features that we are looking for. For example, if we were designing an app for a coffee brand franchise, we want participants to be clients of that coffee shop.
- Develop an interview guide. Once we have taken the previous steps we can arrange an interview guide that will allow us to portray what we need to find out.
- Choose a spot. A key feature of guerrilla research is choosing a location where the sessions will take place. Also, if we choose a shop, for example, we may need to ask for permission.
- About the participants. This point is also vital when carrying out this method. To avoid biases, we could maybe use the technique of approaching every fifth person we see. We should not approach people that seem too busy and we should be prepared for rejection from most of the people we approach. What is key when choosing participants is:
- Look for realistic environments: Situations created based on people’s characteristics, situations that would represent users and situations when people can be seen.
- Look for real users: Not UX Designers, not people directly involved in the project we are working on. Summing up: any other person, preferably part of our main target audience.
- During the session. When somebody accepts to take part in our study we need to thank them for their time and specify how long it will take. Following the interview guide is recommended, but we will need to adapt to what is happening at the moment. During the session we need to perform intelligent observation:
- Focus on expectations, behaviours and interactions. It is also very important to listen closely and favour open-ended questions.
- We need to verify coherence of the expressed opinions and actions.
- We need to address why, not just the answer.
- We have to understand the reasons and delve into interesting elements, finding more about them by using probing questions.
- After the session. When we are done with the interview it is important that we thank the participants for their time and offering incentives if there were any. It can be a small thank you gesture in exchange for the time dedicated to us, such as an invitation to a coffee. It is also recommended to seize the opportunity right after the session to write down notes and observations.
Guerrilla UX Research methods
In order to carry out different guerrilla research methods a change of mentality may be needed: we need to move our attention from objective data sustained in numbers, tests, evidence, deductions and the understanding of natural methods of users, assumptions. Due to the commitment in terms of accuracy in collected data, these have the main objective of allowing the development of one of the most important qualities a UX Designer should have: empathy. (Take a look at our post regarding Soft skills you need for your UX career).
Some guerrilla UX research methods:
- On the street, a bar, tram, coffee brewer… interviewing people we find in everyday situations is the first step to test our hypothesis, ideas or convictions. Any situation is perfect to ask and listen.
- Guerrilla usability testing: Testing out during all the design process, finding out hypotheses just as they take shape so we can choose the best way to go without exploring every single idea or detail.
- A/B testing.
- Remote usability testing.
- Unmoderated testing: There are many different tools to carry out these kinds of tests, from SurveyMoney to UserZoom, UserTesting and many more.
Guerrilla research is one way to achieve the same objectives as conventional research just not in the usual way, cheaper, faster and less formal.
Even if they have the same focus, Guerrilla UX Research was not born to substitute formal research, but to give an alternative to not carrying out research.
To sum up: better guerrilla research than no research at all.
Guerrilla research consists of finding the best relation between formal accuracy we need to achieve and the value of the results that we will obtain.
Guerrilla UX Research does not replace formal research. It replaces the absence of research looking for the compromise between formal accuracy and the value of the results through unconventional methods. It is cheap. It does not require much time and you do not need to be an expert. It helps having enough clues to make reasonable decisions and helps us practice empathy.
In conclusion, guerrilla research should not totally replace UX research or the use of a UX Lab, but if there is no other alternative it is a good method we can put into practice.
If you are thinking about learning all about UX Research, take a look at our Advanced Research Specialisation Programme (this training is in Spanish).
This is a translation of the following article published in our corporate website: