The internet is all atwitter about ReadWriteWeb’s article on how a quirk in Google had them highly ranked for the search term “Facebook login”.

It was like we had unearthed a long-lost city, the Atlantis of the Internet. But instead of treasures and gold we’d found a steady deluge of confused and frustrated users who had tried everything they knew to do and just wanted to log in to Facebook, damnit. But how had this happened? It certainly wasn’t that thousands and thousands of people had just started searching for “facebook login” yesterday. This stream of people has been there all along and something is broken.

There is a persistent meme, which this article is only helping reinforce, that user experience professionals are needed because the average user is far less intelligent than the average designer so we need to hire some people who can “think stupid” just like the user. Such thinking doesn’t benefit anyone, developers lose respect for the user and start creating condescending, dumbed down UIs. Users continue to find the new software hard to use because it doesn’t address their core issues.

Users aren’t so much unintelligent as they are distracted and indifferent

Your average user may be perfectly competent and zip through your app like a charm when they’re in a controlled setting, focusing exclusively on your application and incentivized to succeed. But such a scenario is almost never likely to happen in the real world. What’s more realistic is that they’re devoting, at best, 10% of their attention towards your app while they have the TV blaring in the background, an IM conversation they’re also involved in, thoughts about whether that meeting with the boss tomorrow means a promotion or getting fired. Your application is at best, 5th on their priority list and they’re largely moving on autopilot as they navigate through it. Once you understand this basic reality, user behavior becomes a lot easier to understand.

A couple of years ago, a grizzled UX professional taught me one invaluable fact.

Drunk people are a pretty accurate mimic of distracted, indifferent people

This insight has lead to a wonderful technique I’ve been refining over the years that I call “The $5 Guerrilla User Test”.

The $5 Guerrilla User Test

The $5 Guerrilla User Test

Here’s the 5 second version:

  1. Bring a laptop to a bar
  2. Offer to buy someone a beer in exchange for participating in a user study
  3. Watch your application crash & burn as people do all sorts of ridiculous ass shit they would never do in a lab but constantly do in real life
  4. Go back, apply the lessons you have learnt, repeat until you have an app that is 100% drunk person proof

This is the slightly longer version for those who are interested:

  • Like conventional user studies this is best done with a group of two, one to run through the script, the other to take notes.
  • Approach in a friendly manner, explain who you are and who you work for and ask them if you can have a moment of their time.
  • If they don’t seem receptive from the get go, thank them for their time and move on to a different target
  • Explain to them that you want some insight on a piece of software you’re currently building and tell them that you’re willing to buy them a pint of beer as compensation for their participation
  • If they accept (and 90% of them will), ask them their preference of beer and then ask your partner to go off and order it
  • While you’re waiting for your partner, inform them of your data collection policies, the procedure and the standard stuff about how they can quit at any time. It doesn’t much matter what exactly you say to them, the key is to make it boring. This step is key. When you first approached them, you were something novel for the night so they’re interested and motivated to perform. 2 minutes of dull chatter is going to lose their attention and they’re back to being utterly indifferent about your problems again.
  • Once your partner gets back, run it just like any other user study.
  • At the end, hand them their beer, thank them for their time and drop off some business cards for some easy word of mouth marketing. If you offer any sort of premium features, give them a year’s access to it as a gift as well. It’s a nice surprise and converts surprisingly well.

That’s it! It’s cheap, fast, can be done by anyone and gives you insights you never would have gotten hiring a professional usability consulting firm. Go out and do it!

Here’s a couple more tips I’ve picked up over the years:

  • The first time you do it, you’re probably going to be suffering from approach anxiety. Start off approaching a group of the same sex as you so that the encounter isn’t sexualized. Next, move on to a mixed sex group and then finish the night with an opposite gender interaction so you get a nice demographic spread.
  • Focus on people who don’t normally get talked to at bars, middle aged people, homely girls, the guy sitting in the corner.
  • People alone, reading a book, have a 50% chance of agreeing to participate. People alone, reading a newspaper, have a 99% chance of agreeing to participate.
  • If you ever get the feeling that you’re being messed with, politely end the experiment, give them their beer and move on to the next round of testing.
  • Groups of all guys tend to be the only ones who ever mess with you. I avoid asking them as a rule.
  • You want someone who’s pretty drunk but not completely trashed. A good way to calibrate is to keep on asking progressively drunker people until your results become garbage, then back off one notch from there. After a few rounds, you learn to spot the signs of an ideal participant.
  • Conveniently for you, weekdays end up being more effective than weekends so you can do this after work.
  • I generally try to keep the entire session down to around an hour which works out to be roughly 4 * 15 minute user studies. Much more than that is tiring and too much data to analyze the next day.
  • While beer is good before & after the user study, try and keep beer away during the user study. Spilled beer on a laptop can be an expensive mistake.
  • Bars are wonderful at segmenting by demographic. Match the bar you’re going to with the user population you want to target. Different bars will produce slightly different results but the variation is not huge.
  • If you’re planning on regularly using one bar to do your tests, tip the bartender well from the start, like, 30 – 40%. That extra $1 you spend isn’t going to break the bank and having a bartender on your side brings all sorts of benefits.
  • edit: One extra tip from a friend, mobile app development benefits even more from this technique since mobile use tends to involve even more distraction. Users are using your app while walking down the street, driving, holding a conversation etc.

Anyway, that’s it. I’d love to hear from people how their experience with the $5 Guerrilla User Test goes.

  • Cheapest Slr Cameras

    This is a great approach thanks for sharing it.

  • Website Designer Riyadh

    This is innovative concept to read.. But nice..  You have mentioned very useful and profitable message for us..
    Web Designer Riyadh | Riyadh website design company

  • hire a web programmer

    I like very much your way of presentation Some great information to be absorbed in this post.Thanks a lot for sharing.
    hire web developers | hire a website developer

  • hire a web programmer

    I enjoyed this post of yours and I must say that every time I come back to your blog, I always have something new and informative to read. Thanks for keeping me updated.
    website developers for hire | hire a website developer

  • Anonymous
  • Anonymous

    i truthfully enjoy your own writing kind, very remarkable,
    don’t give up as well as keep writing due to the fact that it simply just worth to follow it.
    looking forward to see a whole lot more of your current well written articles, enjoy your day
    SEO Services Company
    Dominican Republic Real Estate
    Guaranteed SEO Services

  • Best SEO Services

    Excellent information , please keep it up , we  are a team of seo consultants and a best seo services company by seo expertMr Altaf Gohar

  • Cheap Purses

    talking about this man. Give us something more, something that we can get
    behind so we can feel as passionately about it as you do. 

  • Bryna venit online

    I couldn’t say it anybetter:The Atlantis of the internet!

  • Bryna venit online

    I couldn’t say it anybetter:The Atlantis of the internet!

  • Anonymous

    Our business is mostly functioning ugg boots sale.We have a Kids Infants Erin UGG Boots range Classic Cardy UGG Boots of ugg classic boots.They have numerous kings of models.For example,ugg ugg boots sale 5825,ugg5803 and ugg 5815.Our ugg boots shop is the most popular internet store on the web.

  • Joomla extensions

    This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.Thanks for posting this informative post.

  • Huangmingmin

    Ugg boots outlet
    ugg boots cheap
    Ugg outlet
    cheap ugg boots
    Ugg boots sale uk Whatever,
    uk Ugg Boots chances are that you end
    up with boots that appear very similar ugg looking but bear no same
    Uggs On Sale
    durability, lightness as well as thermostatic benefits as the genuine UGG.
    ugg boots outlet If you still desire
    to get an authentic pair,
    outlet your local department stores and branded shoe shops are the best bet.
    If you can’ t find what exactly you want in the usual stores,
    uggs outlet online go shopping
    ugg online You can
    even find excellent sheepskin boots at a fraction of
    ugg boots outlet their steep
    original sales price.
    Tory Burch
    tory burch
    tory burch outlet
    tory burch sale.

  • Business Logo Design

    Thanks a lot for share such a great info material on your blog. i like to share this with my friends soon.

  • How to register a website

    I regularly visit your site as you have very useful and interesting resource on your blog.. I appreciate your interest towards sharing the useful stuffs. Great work you guys are doing, keep it up! 

  • pcb manufacture

    This is a great site. Good new interface and nice informative blogs. I will be coming back soon, thanks for the great blog.

  • Bangalore website design

    Excellent job done and nice informative blog posted.Thanks
    Bangalore website design

  • Pamela Dickerson

    I think if you are going to test of someting,it’s best to get involved the people you rather than going somewhere else and spend more money.

  • web designing company

    Nice piece of information is shared with great information.Thanks for sharing this blog here.

  • Turner Rosenblum

    Can anybody share how does it taste and where can I check it for testing or where ca I purchase it? Im just  curious about it. Thank you

  • get paid to program

     Please add more good information that would  help others in such good way.

  • finance lease

    It seems too complicated and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post.

  • affordable used cars

    I found this board and I find It truly useful & it helped me out a lot. I hope to give something back and help others like you aided me.

  • employment news

    Awesome blog. I enjoyed reading your articles.

  • Rohitpal926

    I will recommend my friends to read this. I am quite sure they will learn lots of new stuff here than anybody else! Submit URL Free

  • duct cleaning

    This is my first opportunity to visit this website. 

  • web hosting

    You can always learn a lot of huge things from other people. attractive indeed.

  • Best Web Design Company

    This is really too brilliant information..Nice to read here.

  • backlink service

    What an amazing blog. I have found this blog very interesting because I have gotten the most read information.

  • Pingback: A time-poor, small-budget approach to UX | UX Mastery

  • Pingback: Usability Testing for Startups: A History and How To

  • Julia Rubinic

    Have you seen the drunk usability research at

  • Pingback: Usability Testing | Casey McEnaney

  • Pingback: Vault»Blog Archive » I’ve been things and seen places