How to Do User Testing on a Budget

A beginner’s guide to running your first user testing session for $0

Jules Cheung
Published in
9 min readMar 13, 2017


Image: Luigi/Unsplash

UUser testing is expensive. Designers, researchers, product managers, and developers are often tasked with performing user testing on limited budgets. As a designer, I’ve worked on numerous projects under similar constraints and I’d like to share some tips and tricks I’ve learned throughout the years.

Though I’ll focus on testing methods for digital products, the general concepts can apply to services or physical products. The goal is to show ideas to users early to evaluate, iterate, and validate assumptions.

What is user testing?

User testing, also known as usability testing, is a process that identifies issues with a product by testing it with real users. User testing has been around for a while; in World War II it was used to improve military equipment.

Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think further popularized user testing across the industry. Today, usability methods have been made available beyond the traditional confines of military, academia, and corporate R&D labs. If you’re interested in the history of user testing, check out Jeff Sauro’s usability timeline.

Why do you need to do user testing?

It’s a lot cheaper to catch potential problems early on in the product development life cycle. Tech companies typically follow an agile workflow that looks something like this:

Graphic: The Agile Iteration Workflow

This graphic represents how projects are passed through teams across the company. Product managers start by defining product requirements, which are passed along to the UX team. After finalizing design, the product moves through Development, QA, UAT, and Release Engineering. This cycle repeats itself in an iterative manner until the final product is complete.

Designers who rely on intuition and assumptions alone must wait until the release of each cycle to gauge feedback, potentially wasting a lot of resources. Reversing the damages of poor user experience is an expensive and…



Jules Cheung
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Product Designer 🎨✍️ I write about design and random musings.