If you’re a lean startup, it’s often hard to get both buy-in and budget for usability testing. Today’s agile world presents another challenge as it’s difficult to recruit participants, schedule testing, and incorporate the feedback.

The UX team at Backupify recently started using internal participants for product testing. We’re leveraging teams that don’t spend every waking minute using our product (e.g. finance department) to test new features. Here are some of the benefits we’ve seen from using internal participants:

  • It’s FREE: In the startup world, budgets are tight. You can pay participant recruiting firms up to $150 for one participant. And that doesn’t include the participant’s incentive. The cost for a Backupify employee on the other hand, is one short hour of their work day.

  • It’s Quick: We asked people a day or two in advance to help with the usability study. Scheduling external participants would have been extremely time consuming - finding them and then working around their schedules. The alternative of just grabbing folks at their desks is SO much faster.

A few things to keep in mind if you choose to use internal participants…..

1. You must have your User Experience (UX) team “seal their vaults.” This means that if the internal participants can’t accomplish somewhat simple things in the software, this should not to be shared outside of the team. Keep it professional and do not reveal the identity as an internal employee participating in the testing. Refer to them as participant one or participant A when discussing their feedback with others.

2. You probably won’t receive great domain-specific feedback from internal participants. For example, internal participants are good vetters for general, basic usability issues such as ‘can the user find the SAVE button?’ but they are not so good at telling you whether the workflow you built is adequate for real customers’ usage - because they aren’t a real customer!

3. This method is not for everyone. We used team members who have limited use of our application. Unfortunately you might not have these people in your office.

While I’ve discussed using internal employees to help with usability testing, we’re always looking for outside help with our usability testing. Our goal is to get as much feedback as we can to ensure we’re delivering the best user experience possible. If you or anyone you know of is familiar with Google Apps, especially Google Apps for Business or Google Apps for Education and would like to help us, please reach out to usability@backupify.com to schedule a test. We offer incentives (e.g. Amazon gift cards) for those willing to give us about an hour of their time.