Making sure we’re building what our customers want

Person 1: So you made a web page/tool for your customers, does it give them what they need?

Person 2: Yes!

Person 1: Did you ask them?

Person 2: Well no… we just know!

All too common a conversation. How do we know if we’ve got it right if we don’t actually ask our customers? We can run an online survey but the chances of a customer completing the survey could be low. For example, how many times have you filled in our user survey on our website?

We have been learning about the benefits of ‘guerrilla testing’, the idea of quickly getting an opinion from a potential user by just going out on the street and asking them. The idea fills many with fear but the outcomes are great and you don’t have to wait for results.

Who do I test it with?

You start with thinking of your audience; It’s a page about school information? Try outside the school gates at 3:00pm. Most common places could be as simple as a café with a wide range of customers. Make sure you get permission from the owners of the premises before starting.

GDS recommend around 6-12 participants in each round, that should give you a clear enough view of what worked and what didn’t. If more than one of you go, one can take notes while the other does the testing with the customer.

How do I approach someone?

This is a bit of a hill to overcome for some, but really don’t worry, you’ll soon find how nice and helpful people can be. Tell them who you are and how long it would take, you can even offer them an incentive like a cup of coffee or a muffin if you’re feeling generous.


“Sorry to disturb you, we’re from *******. Could you spare a few minutes to give us some feedback on a web page we’ve been designing?”

Sometimes using the words “User testing” might make them feel uncomfortable, like they might be the ones being tested. Make sure you’re clear that we just want their thoughts so we can make it better for them.

You can also use recording software to record the user’s voice and movement on the screen, just remember to get permission from the customer and be clear what will happen to the recording after the session. A written consent form with your contact details should also be given.

When to start testing?

Anytime! Draw it on a piece of paper if needs be, just don’t get too far in your design before actually asking customers about it. It will help you get an idea if you’re going in the right direction with it.

After your first set of testing, make some improvements and go out and test it again!


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