I was asked by the company I work at to make a usability report in a few days that shows the state of the current site under the following limitations:

  • I don't have any budget or gifts to give to the participants.
  • I can't do proper surveying/screening since I don't have the time/money/support needed for that.

Yet I still need to produce a report that will point us to the right direction.

I'll be able to get much more time and support to produce a report with fairly accurate results after this initial report, it just needs to be good enough and not mislead later on. Or, in other words, I need to convince the management (with data and stats to benchmark the progress, as they asked for) that we should invest some time in improving our site's usability. Observations are not enough in this case.

How you would go about doing that?

Appreciate your input.

5 Answers 5


1) See if you can get any usage data: do you have any site stats, analytics or can you mine log files? Get some basic data about entry points, exit points, and anything else you can about "behaviour" on the site.

2) Do you have a call center or support desk? Ask people who work there what the most asked questions are - what are their canned email responses (those indicate common problems) - do any of these problems relate to the interface?

3) Recruit friends and family and ask other colleagues in the field to help with some concentrated and directed testing and evaluation. This can be pulled off in under a day.

4) Run a workshop with internal stakeholders. Cognitive walkthrough, perhaps. Hit major areas of functionality and usage. This can be done in an hour.

5) Quick online tests. If you have a way to disseminated them, using a quick and free test like 5 second test, or a trial/beta of something like Usabilla, you can get some substantial data in a day or two. This only works if you have means to distribute though (Facebook presence, client list, user database, etc.)

Those are five quick things I do. You can build great recommendations in days this way.


They want "data and stats" but won't give you the resources to collect them? Are you being set up to fail?

I think your best bet is aim for the key manager(s) at a gut level.

  • Find someone in the company that has a reputation for being smart and "good with technology," but is otherwise someone not associated with the product.

  • Ask for 15 minutes of their time for a quick usability test.

  • Survey the product and pick a task that you think will most likely have usability problems.

  • Video your user floundering with the product, or have the manager there to see the usability test. The manager has to see this. At an emotional level, a video is worth a thousand stats.

Your punchline: this was someone who should do much better than our average users. Imagine what they go through. And this was just one task and 15 minutes of use.

Coming up with a baseline is hopeless at this stage. The company's lack of commitment to usability probably means they don't believe the product has significant usability problems. The goal here is to show graphically that there are problems. Then get the budget to do a proper baseline and full evaluation.


Given the time and resource limitations, I'd suggest that observations are amongst the only things that you have available to you for this report. A heuristic evaluation springs to mind, perhaps a modified heuristics set for your company's particular sector? It will allow you to identify the areas of usability concern on your company website and won't require more than a few days to complete and write up a report (i.e. within your short timetable) - and also doesn't require participants, nor does it require any great analytical effort (transcription, survey analysis etc).

What I don't understand is, how are you are expected to produce "fairly accurate results" with "data and stats" in a few days with no resources??! I understand that is your reason for asking the question here on UXE, but to my mind it just doesn't sound reasonable.

I'd put together a heuristic evaluation, perhaps coupled with a competitor analysis to polarise your current position....i.e. here's why the site isn't great and here's how our competitors are doing it better than us (or how we could be doing it). That ought to put a fire underneath their bottoms :)



You could look at industry best practice and compare that to where your company stands now.

Another way of highlighting real issues would be to sign up for free trials of things like the optimal workshop suite and after setting up some studies, send a link to everyone you know (email, facebook, etc...) and use that data as 'an indicator' of possible issues.



Adding an answer for whoever sees this later:

I would also add to this list that doing a heuristic evaluation would extremely beneficial since that deals with a lot of basic interaction/functionality of the site. The report can then be given numbers and the impact of the issue and complexity of the fix will give a data for the manager to look at.

Leaders make decisions based on alternatives. Sometime showing what happens without UX is more effective than saying why UX can be so good based on the number your trying to get.

(ps. the link goes a site with resources, there are a couple of heuristic evaluation templates there, amongst others "A process for performing a heuristic review" which is a good starting point).

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