We’ve definitely seen many uses for crowdsourcing. From designing to human intelligence tasks to collaboration, crowdsourcing has been a reliable method for getting things done on time and under budget, provided you’re engaging the right community. Recently, we learned about another way to employ crowdsourcing in a way that’s mutually beneficial for all parties -- usability testing.
Taking User Testing to the Crowd
Dave Garr and Darrell Benetar founded the aptly named UserTesting.com in an effort to “provide fast and cheap usability testing.” Such explanations are usually met with skepticism, considering the adage “Fast, Cheap, and Good… but not all three.” Still, we were intrigued.
Usability and user acceptance testing can often be laborious and expensive. As a result, UserTesting.com has developed a method that makes user testing less burdensome so that there’s little excuse for not doing it. As well, not every company can afford expensive tools that provide heat maps, intricate A/B testing, nor may they have the expertise to translate the results into a better website. UserTesting pays for consumers or customers to pick through a company's website with the end goal of addressing and correcting problems and challenges that those consumers are confronted with on the site.
Each user test costs US$ 39 (testers receive $10 per test) and provides customers with two results: a flash video (about 15 minutes in length) of a user speaking their thoughts as they browse your website and a written summary where that same user tells you what they liked, disliked and what would have caused them to leave your site. You can specify the tasks you want testers to complete and gauge their feedback.
Example of the written summary submitted by test users.
Actions vs. Words
What kind of testers will be evaluating your website? According to UserTesting.com, users
are typical Internet users, not usability experts. They are normal people who have been screened to make sure they articulate what they are thinking as they browse.
While it’s never a bad thing to be articulate, Gerry McGovern has warned us that words can often get in the way of the real problem. McGovern writes
If we're going to truly understand web behavior we need to analyze it in its impatient, instinctive state. We need to become as invisible as possible and observe people as they try to complete tasks. Patterns of behavior will always emerge. We'll see where people get stuck, where they give up, where they get puzzled. But if we ask them to tell us why or how, they may end up telling us why they think the worst tasting jam is actually the best.
To be sure that you’re getting the most out of your user testing, whether it’s with UserTesting.com or not, you need to pay more attention to what users are doing, rather than what they are saying they are doing. A UserTesting combination of narrated video coupled with a written account may help to ensure accurate results.
Create Better Websites by Creating Jobs
UserTesting has an impressive list of well-known companies using the service, which may inspire you to apply to be a user tester if you have a passion for improving others’ sites.
Lest you think that $10 isn’t much of an incentive to get accurate user testing, a service like UserTesting may be providing unique work/income opportunities for those who may be unemployed or underemployed in this economy. Say what you will about crowdsourcing, at least companies like UserTesting are using it to solve problems, while possibly creating jobs in the process.