The Coffee Test: A Simple Method of Improving User Experience & Engagement

August 2, 2019

There are countless tools to get the job done and often you may be tempted to use a service or a third-party provider to do the heavy work for you.

These services are very helpful in the development of your product but if you’d like to take a guerilla, inexpensive approach to user testing might I recommend…

The Coffee Test

The test is quite simple; it’s what a good friend of mine does with every one of his projects:

The idea is to go into your average coffee shop and offer someone a coffee if they’re willing to spend five minutes of their time reviewing your project. The coffee may only be a few bucks but putting someone on the spot, them being a random individual, and it being their first introduction to what you’re working on usually provides great insight about the user experience.

What makes the little test so great is that you’re only asking for five minutes of their time so within that time frame they will be engaged and give you their initial impression (this is the big hurdle you’ll have to overcome when trying to get people to dig deeper into your project).

It’s also beneficial to break down the user testing:

  • Use the first two minutes to let them play with the project
  • Use the next two minutes to ask them questions
  • Use the final minute to summarize their thoughts

Peer over their shoulder as they work their way around your app/website/sales letter (or whatever it is); watch where they go upon first touch. Listen to what they have to say while they’re working their way into what you’re showing them. Pay attention to the buttons they click or sections of the app that interests them the most.

When it comes to the questions there are many you can ask but here are a few to get the most from the little experiment:

  • What do you think this product delivers?
  • What do you most/least like about this product?
  • How would you improve the experience?
  • Would you recommend this to a friend?
  • Is this something you would buy? Why or why not?

You can refine the questions toward any number of specific objectives in your user testing. Consider doing this with a dozen people throughout an afternoon while focusing on just one or two items that needs to be addresses much like how you would go about with A/B testing.

For the price of a coffee you can gain some very valuable insight from real-world users. You’re not just pulling from people that do this all the time so the thoughts will be completely off-the-cuff. Take it all with a grain of salt, of course, but do listen to what these individuals have to say as there may be many comments that can improve the user experience.

Take that information back with you and begin making the improvements. Go back and present the new version to a fresh set of individuals. Rinse and repeat. In due time you’ll have a solid baseline and from there it’s a matter of refining it for your niche and target audience.

Image by Christoph

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