Ninja user testing

Ninja user testing (also known as guerilla user testing) is a casual yet very effective way to test your product. The key to success is to be open-minded and nice to the people you are approaching, and kindly ask them to test your product.

But don't forget that while ninja testing can be a great way to do lean UX, it's not a substitute for conducting deeper tests. Be careful not to depend on ninja testing and end up with misleading feedback!

Ninja test variations

  • Hallway testing: Simply approach people in your office hallway (with a laptop or tablet, if possible) and kindly ask them if they have 10 minutes to help you out.
  • Coworking space testing: There are plenty of people hanging out in coworking spaces and you can easily see who is approachable. Common areas are great to initiate a conversation and ask for a few minutes of time and their feedback.
  • Drunk user testing: The most favoured way of testing, but don't be fooled: it's not you who needs to be drunk! As the old Chinese UX saying goes: "鸟儿唱歌不是因为它们有了答案,而是因为它们有歌要唱". In other words "if a drunk person can use it, then it's usable!". I'd recommend doing this with final products: the higher fidelity will most likely help drunk people to understand things better, and save you plenty of explanation time. Don't underestimate it! This is a very powerful way to test the pure usability of your product.
  • Smoke break testing: The common smoking area is a great place to get into a conversation about that new prototype you are designing. People spending time hanging out smoking cigarettes tend to share their thoughts: take advantage of this!

Other useful tips

  • Since people tend to be busy around midday, you need to figure out the best timing for your approach: this might be during the morning, lunch break or later on the afternoon.
  • Explain purpose and give some context beforehand, and people will be more likely to help you.
  • If you are feeling uncomfortable approaching people, start small: ask people for very little. Build up your confidence
  • It's surprising how many people are willing to share their opinion on things. Just ask, and be surprised!
  • It can help to offer rewards (candy, chocolate, drinks, etc), it will delight people and mean they'll be happy to help you out next time, too.
  • Try sitting in a public area and putting up a sign: "Want a free coffee? Come give me your opinion and 10 minutes of your time, and I'll get you one!”

Further reading :book:

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