I'm working (slowly) on an open-source project, and I was hoping to do some usability testing once it's a bit further along. Also, hopefully the GIMP devs will notice this question ;-). I'm not sure how much can be done for $0.00. I can con friends/family/coworkers into helping, and I can use a free screen recorder, but the project is targeted at a fairly limited audience (technical artists working on shaders), of which I know 0. I'm hopeful that maybe some users on the wide interwebs would be interested in helping, too. The problem there is how to connect with them. I've read articles on remote usability studies, however it tends to depend on pay-by-the-minute services and expensive screen sharing software. Anyone with experience doing testing on the very cheap have any suggestions?
Check out Skype's Screen Sharing feature (it's free). I'm planning on using Skype for this very purpose in a couple months.
I'll be writing a "Skype Screen Sharing with Steve" blog post to try to encourage participation. I'm thinking the invitation should be up front about the fact that you're looking for feedback and are curious about uncovering problems. But it's also an opportunity for the end user to learn the software better.
I had this problem as well a short while ago. What I did was write out a list of tasks and have participants record a screencast of themselves doing them, while thinking out loud. Later on when you watch the screencast, if there are parts that you would want them to re-do, you could ask them to do a second round.
What is the advantage for you in screensharing?
Google Hangouts On Air is a good option for remote usability testing. It provides screensharing capabilities, allows uses to easily re-connect and the recording is automatically uploaded to YouTube.
The video quality for the recording is not the best, but is good enough to see what is going on if you know the prototype you are testing.
We create and distribute a participation form (using google docs) to easilly schedule testing sessions.
Some related materials:
Here's a free UX testing and feedback site: Usability Testing Exchange (I'm developing it).
Instead of paying, you do UX testing for other people. You'll get back about as much feedback, as you gave other people. So, do spend some time testing other people's stuff and writing feedback. — Whilst doing this, you'll learn about common mistakes others do. Then you can avoid doing those same mistakes yourself.
The people over at Usability Testing Exchange who will test your stuff, are typically other people with their own websites/apps, who want feedback, them too, about their own stuff. They might not be your target user group, but usually they notice any major problems with your website/app nevertheless. The quality of the feedback is a bit random: some people might not write English so very well, whilst others do, and are good at design and UX.
If you want to see if / how it works — then look here and you'll see recent UX testing tasks and feedback people have given: https://usability.testing.exchange/forum/latest/queue. Note that some people might not have gotten any feedback. That would likely be because they didn't help anyone else. Because those who help others, get feedback back, themselves, first.