No Money User Testing: The Free Plan revealed

Are you a scrappy start-up that wants to test but have no money?

Don’t feel sad, my friend.  @BUXOfficial is here to help.

In Ben’s last post, he asked a pretty good question: How much should you spend on user testing?  Like so many good questions, it’s impossible to answer directly.  “It depends” is as good as it gets.  He details some of the considerations and constraints for UX and user testing budgets.  He advocates asking yourself three questions:

  1. Are you currently making money from your site?
  2. Does your website make money directly (eCommerce) or indirectly (informational lead generator)?
  3. How committed are you to iterating your site?

I won’t go into the devilish details but my answer to “How much should you spend on user testing” is, Zero dollars.  Don’t spend any money on user testing.  Can’t we just skip the money part?

Good news, dear scrappy UX puppy, you can!  You can start testing for free. Today.  Oh, you didn’t know? Let me introduce you.

Free Ninety Free!

Meet the Free Plan

If you have no money, start with the free plan.  It’s still going to cost time and attention, but it seems like a gift. You don’t have to commit money and you can learn the tool – and more importantly the technique and the method. You probably won’t use all the feature of the expensive plan anyway.  Many times the free plan is good enough, to start.

But beware the dangers in a free plan.  I’ve called some free plans, ‘Hobbled’. I mean that they are not really functional in a business sense.  They function only as trial of the tool. They help you decide to buy or not, but don’t help you user-test so much.  I guess that’s cool, but it doesn’t really work for our ‘No dollar, Start-up, Scrappy biz owner’.  We want something that works. We want something that has value to our business process.  And, we don’t want to pay for it.  It sounds sort of crappy and immature, but … there it is.  And, some tools do this.  Google Analytics and Inspectlet spring to mind.

I suppose their strategy goes like this.  Step1: We incorporate the tool into our workflow. Step2: We earn some cash. Step3: We decide to upgrade to their monthly payment plan. Have I done that with a business tool? No.  Will I? maybe. [Crap! A monthly payment plan?  What is this garbage? Is this Aaron Rents?  I don’t OWN anything. Can’t I at least own my workflow? but I digress.]  Maybe not.

What I like about a Free Plan:

  • It’s really free, forever – If you call the 30 day trial a ‘free plan’, you suck. That’s a trial. Not a free plan. [Call it like I see it.]
  • It’s not ‘Hobbled’  – PayMo and Harvest are interesting in this respect.  PayMo’s free plan allows you to have unlimited projects and tasks. They limit invoices per month.  Harvest is just the opposite. They allow unlimited invoices, but limit projects and tasks.  I use PayMo because I rarely invoice, but have tons of projects and tasks I want to track.  PayMo’s free plan meets my needs more than Harvest.
  • It’s a learning tool – It allows you to leverage what you have (creativity and passion and time), against what you lack (money).  And, that’s you, right?  If you have no money AND none of that other stuff, you need another post.
  • It builds trust – It’s like a company saying “Hey, we aren’t going to make you feel like an asshole for being broke.  Get in here and use this tool.  Once you start making money, you can buy it and reward us for our trust and generosity”.  It’s like they trust their tool to sell itself.  And, trust is a two way street.  I trust them with my workflow, time and attention. And, they trust me to stay with them once I get paid.

On the negative side, sometimes I feel bad on the free plan.  I feel like a freeloader. Take Inspectlet, for example.  I like Rachit, the developer, and I like the tool.  It’s the free tool that can open your eyes to your user behavior. It’s powerful right off the bat – without needing to learn any UX methodology or techniques.

However, I feel that the jump from free to $10 bucks a month is too high for me right now… and this is where I start to feel like a freeloader, because I DEFINITELY get more than $10 bucks of value out of the free plan.  I wish they did a sliding scale, pay as you wish.  I would pay something to ease my guilt and do my part to keep this awesome tool around and free plan active.

Free Plans in the UX Directory

I recommend and currently use these tool’s freely – Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, and Inspectlet.

Below I take a quick look at  A/B testing tools in the UX Directory.  Only one has a viable free plan, but it’s been said, “One is all you need.”

A/B Testing tools

  • IntuitionHQ – They do screenshot and tasked based user tests.  Upload screenshots and build tasks for users to perform.  It’s sort of like a visual survey tool.
    The free plan is good!  You can have a One live test at a time, with unlimited questions and  10 participants.  This is more than enough to get started, improve your website and improve your skill is testing.
  • Pick Fu – They do an A/B test based on text or an uploaded image (screenshot, graphic, etc) The beauty here is that they get the user testers for you.
    No free plan.  $10 per test.  This isn’t bad, but not free.
  • Optimizely – They do a javascript based A/B test.  Drop the code on the site and then make changes to create variations to test.
    No free plan.  $19 per month.
  • Google Website Optimizer – Read our review – Old school A/B testing that involves upload separate files and a javascript to display and record the interactions.
    The free plan is good!
  • Backstory – This unique tool delivers different content to different audience segments.  As an A/B test, you can serve up different content and see what converts better.
    No free plan*. There is a free plan for personal sites, but not for business.

So, if you are interested in A/B testing your site or anything on a screen, money is no longer an obstacle. And, many of the tools in the other categories of the UX Directory offer a free plan.  It’s a great way to begin, to practice and to learn the UX methods and tools.


2 comments on “No Money User Testing: The Free Plan revealed

  1. Pingback: How Much Should You Spend on User Testing? | A Better User Experience

  2. Hi Newman – I’ve really enjoyed this post.

    On the topic of free remote user testing sites, I’ve launched a new one at

    It’s completely free and geared specifically towards user benchmarking for competitive assessments. This is something I’ve used at several companies and have finally decided to make it available to others.

    I’d love to know what you think.

    ~ Ryan

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