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This article was published on November 14, 2013

8 cheap and awesome tools for user testing on a budget

8 cheap and awesome tools for user testing on a budget
Daniel Cortes

This post was originally published on the Punchkick Interactive blog.

We all know user testing is a large part of app development because of the benefits it carries, but where do you begin? For those starting out on a budget, we’ve compiled a list of low-cost user testing tools for you to consider.

Usability Hub

Price: Free – $200/month

For validation of single pages, there is Usability Hub. First click tests are a great tool for testing landing pages, product pages, or designs. Usability Hub starts at the cheapest of cheap – free. The ‘Community’ plan gives you a credit when you test other users’ designs, and you can spend these credits (called karma) to have your own designs tested. It’s an ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine’ type of thing.

Paid options are also available, starting at $20/month for 100 user tests, to $200/month for 1,000 user tests plus some extra perks.

usability hub

Optimal Workshop

Price: Free – $109/month per product

Optimal Workshop has three products that let you conduct different types of user tests whose goal it is to increase conversions. You can run small tests with the free version, and there are paid enterprise options as well.

Optimal Workshop’s first user testing product is OptimalSort. OptimalSort is a card sorting tool where users arrange items in the way that makes the most sense to them. If you’re building a submenu system or brainstorming how to best categorize different items, card sorting is your pal. It’s a great way to optimize navigation, ensuring users find what they’re looking for when navigating your product.

Treejack is Optimal Workshop’s information architecture validation, or ‘reverse card-sorting’ tool. Instead of grouping cards, users are asked to drill down to whatever you want them to find. If they’re having problems, you have a problem. Fixing flaws in a product’s IA can lead to an immediate increase in target metrics.

Optimal Workshop’s final product is Chalkmark. Chalkmark is another first click test tool. A fine first click test tool, but you already know about those.



Price: First is free – $15/user afterwards

EasyUsability.com uses Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to conduct low cost usability tests. You provide five qualification users to ensure you’re testing your target audience, and five questions you want your users to answer, and you have results in ~48 hours.

User tests are only $15 per user, making this a very affordable option.


Feedback Army

Price: $20/10 reviews

If your site is up and running, Feedback Army will get you quick and easy access to users’ insights. Ask questions like, ‘what is the purpose of this site?’ or ‘what is the first thing you notice?’ and see your responses in roughly one to three hours. If you’re trying to optimize quickly, the speed and low cost of Feedback Army is a huge benefit.



Price: $49/user

UserTesting.com has gotten a lot of positive press, so we’re including it on this list despite the slightly steeper price tag. The $49 gets you a video of a person using your site or app, and talking through the process.

James Costa writes on UX Booth, “I found a lot of great comments about the site and saw the site in two very different ways…It was very interesting to see them interact with the site in a way I wouldn’t have.”


Google Analytics

Price: Free

This isn’t exactly a user testing tool, but if you’re not running some analytics platform on your site or app, go set one up right now. The information they provide is invaluable. We recommend Google Analytics because the basic version is free of charge and, from a usability perspective, it’s fairly easy to use. You’ll have to learn your way around, it’s a very powerful tool, but we’ve noticed that people get the hang of it faster than other analytics tools.

What will you learn with Google Analytics? How your users find your site, how they navigate it, how long they stay on each page, how well your marketing campaigns are doing, and much more. With a bit of e-elbow grease, you’ll know what you need to improve your metrics.


Offline Options

Paper prototyping your friends/coworkers

Price: Free

Fun fact: Anyone around you can be considered a great potential candidate for quick and dirty user testing. If you’ve got a few ideas on how to wireframe a product and can’t settle on the best one, ask the people you know to give their input. Make sure to ask at least five people to get a broader spectrum of answers.

In our experience, it’s best to ask those we know to pick between different options, as you may not get the most honest answers with simple questions like ‘do you like this design?’

Guerrilla user testing

Want some validation while grabbing a cup of coffee? Grab whatever it is you want to test, whether it’s a clickable PDF or a smartphone app, and head to your local coffee shop to talk to some people. The guys at UX Booth have an in-depth guide to conducting user tests, guerrilla style.

Top image credit: pogonici/Shutterstock

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