Make Easy Money and Learn a Thing or Two About Website Design

By Carlos Portocarrero on 3 December 2009 (Updated 8 December 2009) 24 comments
Photo: Duchamp

Most tips for earning extra cash are boring, repetitive, and downright weird. Filling out surveys and doing sexy talk on the phone just aren't my idea of a good time.

Wouldn't it be more exciting to make some extra cash while learning something useful that could make you a more valuable employee?

How Websites Are Built

Websites aren't just slapped together by someone who wants this button here and that image there — a lot of work goes into creating a website that behaves the way a company expects it to work. It's called a "user experience."

But it's not easy — and that's why there's such a thing as usability testing. It helps to answer some of these mysterious questions:

  • What do people do when they come to a site?
  • Why do they stay and why do they go?
  • What turns a visitor away from a site? Is it the color scheme or the way it's written out?

But how on earth are you supposed to read a user's mind?

Enter UserTesting.com

Here's what User Testing does: They pay web-savvy people like you and me to surf companies' sites according to the instructions given to them.

And the whole thing is being recorded: the user's screen is recorded and their audio of them talking through everything that they're doing and how they're feeling about the site. Here is a sample video of what these companies get for their money (it costs $29 for each "project").

Becoming a Tester

To become a tester, all you need to do is go through a test case where you get assigned a project and perform the tasks given to you. Then you submit the video (their software does all the work, it's extremely easy) along with a written summary of your experience, and you wait. Once you are approved, you'll get an email whenever a new job is available.

Each job takes around 10 minutes to complete and will net you $10, which is deposited straight into your Paypal account.

There is no shortage of projects to go around — I usually miss out on most of them because other users scoop them up before I get a chance (I do have a job, for crying out loud). But if you're a stay-at-home parent or college student, you could really pick up a decent amount of money on a day-to-day basis.

It's so easy, anyone can do it. All you need to know is how to surf the web and talk your way through every click and scroll that you perform. Easy.

And the bonus? You get to learn a thing or two about how websites are designed, what works, what doesn't, and different techniques that are used to engage users when they visit a site.

 

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Guest's picture

Great post! I didn't even realize this type of thing existed!!! This is perfect for folks looking for a little extra cash. A dollar a minute ain't half bad! =)

Julie Rains's picture

This sounds like a great way to make money -- I have been trying to give away my user insights for free -- that is, when I have been forced to call customer service b/c of a lousy site navigation design and in vain tried to explain the concept of usability (or heuristics) testing -- but am glad to see that this could be a source of income for some and a way to help companies to understand navigational nightmares.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

Glad you enyojed the piece and the idea! It's really the easiest and most useful way I've found to make some extra money. Plus it's kind of fun too!

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Guest's picture

I tried UserTester a while back. I was approved, but I had an older computer at the time and it didn't work well with their software. I think I'll give it a shot again.

Guest's picture
Guest

... and got their email reply that if you don't hear from them within 10 days you probably won't get any jobs as you were added to their waiting list.

I hate to be cynical, but I wonder if these free trial review sessions get sold to clients, and, given the laws of supply and demand, will there be very few (if any) paying review sessions.

Guest's picture

As easy as this job may seem, sure. But first you have to be approved and that's the problem. When applying I had the option to use my phone to record a message for the sample video instead of using a microphone. So I chose that option.

Unfortunatly, when recording, usertesting automatically hangs up on their end at 40 seconds which isn't enough time for the video. I was also not taken to the page to type my answer as it said I would be. It simply took me to their website which said thank you for applying.

I then recieved an email with the same thank you. The email also explained that companies would let me know if they are interested in hiring me. If not, it means I'm not going to be hired. So I'm assuming I won't be since user testing would not allow me to record long enough to show anything positive to companies from my end. You may have better luck using a microphone or landline phone.

Another thing to consider, the program you will need to download takes up a lot of ram. So if you have any programs running in the background you should close them all out if you have an older computer or not a lot of ram. Otherwise it will tell you it cannot install the program until you do so.

Guest's picture
joe nose

Joy Smith...with any job such as this, you would need tools. And a job such as this one calls for something as simple as a microphone, which you don't have, then there are tons of people out there who have it and deserve the job. I suggest just purchaing the microphone, and more RAM....get with the program.

Guest's picture

I'm work for UserTesting.com and wanted to answer the questions from comments #5 and #6:

The sample tests are only used for the purpose of determining who can provide useful feedback. All potential testers review the same site: Kiva.org. (Kiva.org is not a customer of ours...we just love their mission.)

Joy Smith: I deeply apologize for the experience you had trying to sign up for UserTesting.com. What you experienced is not normal. Please write to support@usertesting.com or call 1-800-903-9493 and we'll troubleshoot your problem.

Carlos Portocarrero's picture

@Joy: if you need to speed up your computer on the cheap, I suggest you check out my post on Making Your Computer Faster. It can help quite a bit in my experience!

@Bret: Thanks for the clarification. I thought that everyone got the same test but wasn't sure.

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Guest's picture
Christine

Only for windows :(

Guest's picture

I tried to apply but had some problems with my mic using a virtual machine for windows from my mac. Would love to try it though. Would also love some more extra money ideas like this. Cheers.

Guest's picture
Ellen

I've been doing usability testing professionally for about 10 years so I thought I'd sign up for this when I heard about it here. Interestingly enough, the recording software they provide doesn't work with my computer. I have one sound card but front and rear mic/headset ports, but it detected FOUR sound cards or some such thing - and wouldn't record. They tried to help troubleshoot it but I never got to make a recording to move the process forward. I have no idea what was going on - never have to unplug my speakers at the rear to use the mic in the front before, but I tried every permutation of ports and devices, and a number of different headsets and mics (I do a ton of audio recording and editing and have never had a problem like this). They even sent me some secondary app to try and that recorded fine so it was definitely something wonky with the application. Anyway, its a bummer - I was excited when I heard about this service and was looking forward to it but they had to give up trying. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one to have technical issues.

Guest's picture
Guest

It's been awhile since the original post.

I wonder if anyone has gotten any work.

I spent a good amount of time getting my audition review in (the phone process didn't work, so I upgraded my computer for sound and that review was able to upload).

I follow their tweet's so I see they are still active, but all I ever got was an email reply that I'd be added to their tester backlog.

Guest's picture
Guest

Like the previous guest post on 1/6, I put in a review and never heard back beyond that standard email reply.

So I'll bump up the question - did anyone get any review work from usertesting.com?

Guest's picture
Guest

I signed up with UserTesting.com a couple of weeks ago and I am happy to say that I was approved and did my first job for $10 this morning! So, it is possible =)

Guest's picture
Guest

I worked for Usertesting last semester (I'm in college and have a parttime job) and the extra money was awesome. I was not able to participate this semester due to school but I will be right back in the game this summer. If you are a stay at home mom or dont have a job, this can be a lucrative job. If you sign up, give yourself time to do it. I just did not have time this semester.But summer time is a great time to get started!

Guest's picture
Guest

I worked for Usertesting last semester (I'm in college and have a parttime job) and the extra money was awesome. I was not able to participate this semester due to school but I will be right back in the game this summer. If you are a stay at home mom or dont have a job, this can be a lucrative job. If you sign up, give yourself time to do it. I just did not have time this semester.But summer time is a great time to get started!

Guest's picture
daphne sy

A good article nonetheless.

Guest's picture
daphne sy

A good article nonetheless.

Guest's picture
Kristen Montano

It seems all people who apply to usertesting.com do not get the same sample test (kiva.org). My sample test was on Walmart.com. I did the test yesterday so if I get the job I will let you all know.
It was very easy to apply to just make sure you have a microphone and a quiet environment for the sample test. It was pretty funny/embarrassing when in the middle of my recording for the sample test my garage door opened and my dog went crazy barking. I quit the test and started over a little later. Good luck to those that apply!

Guest's picture
Guest

Did you get the job in the end? Just FYI you can pause the recording. I had to when I needed a US zip code and phone number.

Guest's picture
KRISTEN MONATNO

No, I did not unfortunately. I thought I did a great job since I found a few mistakes on the site. I had figured I wouldn't find anything wrong originally since it is such a popular site/store. I personally think its a scam since the site is not always the same like stated by others. the get free critiques (the people that are applying for job) and get paid for their work by the companies that want to be critiqued. But, hey, maybe there are alot better critiques out there then me =/

Guest's picture
John

I completed my test today, was approved and received one "job" right off the bat. So far so good.

Guest's picture
Guest

I started with user testing.com on 10/6/2011. I had Walmart.com too for my test. All went well with the test and I knew I had passed when I received an email of an available test to complete. It is now 10/27 and I have made $110.00 so far. I have had no issues with being paid by paypal.

I think this little job is fun and which I could do it full time!