Myth #22: Usability testing is expensive

Many organizations still believe usability testing is a luxury that requires an expensively equipped lab and takes weeks to conduct.

In fact, usability tests can be both fast and relatively cheap. You don’t need expensive prototypes; low-tech paper prototype tests can also bring valuable results. You don’t need a lot of participants either, even 5 users can be enough to test for specific tasks, and the recruiting can also be done guerilla-style. For many projects, you can even use remote and unmoderated tests.


How can you fit usability testing into a low budget?

  • Dana Chisnell, author of The Handbook of Usability Testing, recommends cheap and lab-less testing for quick insights. – Quick and Dirty Usability Testing: Step Away from the Book
  • Jared Spool argues that there’s no need for usability labs most of the times. Moreover, labs can even distract participants. – Streamlining Usability Testing by Avoiding the Lab
  • Jakob Nielsen discusses how usability projects can be inexpensive and fast saying that “The methods are incredibly flexible and scale up or down according to circumstance.” – Misconceptions About Usability and How Many Test Users in a Usability Study?
  • In Why You Only Need to Test with 5 Users, Jakob Nielsen says that it’s normally enough to test a design with 5 users. He argues that by adding “more and more users, you learn less and less”. Keep in mind though that a more thorough test of a complete product will still require larger numbers.
  • In his book Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug also states that 3-4 participants are usually sufficient for finding the biggest usability issues.
  • In Usability Testing on a Budget, several UX experts tell their experiences on fitting usability testing into a low budget – skipping the extras and the lab, going informal, etc.
  • UXmatters discusses the pros and cons of unmoderated usability testing, stating that unmoderated testing “is most effective when you have very specific questions about how people use an interface for relatively simple and straightforward tasks.” – Unmoderated, Remote Usability Testing: Good or Evil?
  • It must be noted though that remote tests are not always more economic, another article on UXmatters states that, in the authors’ experience, face-to-face usability testing is more economical.
  • Nate Bolt collected many quick-and-dirty remote usability testing methods and web applications. – Quick and Dirty Remote User Testing
  • … and see a list of remote research tools.

How to get stakeholder buy-in for testing?

  • Proven techniques from Christine Perfetti to convince clients: Five Techniques for Getting Buy-In for Usability Testing
  • In an interview, Dana Chisnell advises to pitch usability testing in a company by examining what the company bases its design decisions on: “Look hard at how you’re making design decisions. Without doing some kind of user research or usability testing, how do you know you’re basing your design decisions on good information?”
  • Arguments to combat usability testing avoidance like “Our product is already perfect” or “It’ll slow us down.” – 4 ways to combat usability testing avoidance