You’ve got an entire application to test and no time allotted for it. You briefly think that you’ll  roll the dice and skipthe usability testing altogether, but chances are good that the program is crawling with bugs.

Is it even possible to do an adequate usability test when you don’t have the budget for it?

While it’s never ideal to test an application with a limited budget, there are some things you can do to stretch your resources. Here are a few tips for performing robust tests on a dime.

Fix Functionality First

Your Number One concern should be to deliver a robust application that does exactly what it’s supposed to do, every time. Creating a sexy-looking app is a bonus, but when you’re testing under a tight budget, you may have to settle for second (or third) best. You can always improve the design in later versions.

Make the most of the time you’ve got. Identify the most important features of the app to test and start with those, then work your way to the lowest priority. Go in this order:

  1. Most commonly used features
  2. Rarely used features
  3. Design, if the budget allows for it

You may only have time to do limited testing on each feature. Focus on these two questions:

  • Performance of the program—How long does it take to complete a basic task?
  • Accuracy of interaction—How many mistakes does the user make while using the program? And how fatal are the mistakes?

Ditch the Digital

Try a quick round of paper prototype testing. Paper prototyping costs almost nothing, and it’s easy to do on the fly. In fact, you may be able to do a full round of paper prototyping in less time than it takes to set up a formal user test. It also requires fewer resources than other forms of usability testing.

Print out screen shots of the functions or UIs you want to test. Grab a co-worker or two from different departments and ask them to complete a task. Take notes and fix the bugs associated with functionality first.

Get the Right Tool for the Job

Third-party usability tools are great if you’re a solo programmer and don’t have anyone else to help you test. They’re also very helpful if you’re under time constraints and need to find various user personas quickly. Some of our favorites are UserTesting.com, OpenHallway, and Userlytics.

Third-party tools also let you replay the user tests, which can help you identify any issues you may have missed without doing another round of testing. Monthly subscription plans let you use the tools without getting locked into any commitments.

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