I’ve been doing user testing for a while now – recording my experiences using a website to provide feedback for the owner. The places I currently offer my services through are WhatUsersDo and BetaPunch but I’m looking to expand to some other places too. The reasoning behind that is because I’m pretty good at what I do.

So far I’ve done over fifty tests through BetaPunch and scored an average of about 4.77 out of 5. That is to say 80% of clients gave me a perfect score.

The problem I’m mainly having is that as BetaPunch expands my skills aren’t being appreciated. I can be relied on to give consistently good data with a balanced background of marketing and design (but not so much as to lose the common touch, so to speak). More than that though I’ve found that I get criticised for issues with their site. I’ve been quiet about this so far but despite my efforts to cut them some slack I’m now sick of being treated this way.

When testing a site it is temporarily unavailable to other testers – reserved for about 40 minutes or so. The test itself takes 10 – 20 minutes, sometimes longer. It really depends on whether the site being tested has to send out confirmation emails and so forth. Once the recording is done some Java-based software encodes the recording in h264 and uploads it to a server somewhere. The encoding takes a while due to the high framerate utilised (compared to the 2 FPS or so WUD records at – it’s a static screen, more is needless) and the resolution. I run a quad-core rig with plenty of RAM – encoding takes a 10 minutes, sometimes 20 using their encoder. WUD does the same work in a fraction of that time. I’m not sure what’s up with their servers but my 3.3 Mbit upstream connection still takes 5 – 10 minutes to upload. There’s nothing I can do about that either, it’s their end.

Looking at the numbers that means that sometimes a test will overrun its slot. I have no control over that – I can’t be any quicker.

Afterwards I find myself on the receiving end of critical emails from the chap that runs BetaPunch. Apparently issues with his infrastructure are something I should be worried about and that I’m some how not being fast enough. I was even asked in a rather confrontational way to give ways to solve this problem, as if I was the cause of them.

When I explained the technical details behind it I essentially got told that he doesn’t know how the technical stuff behind it works. I do though and so I did my best to explain, hoping to get some positive feedback. I didn’t get a response after that. This seems to happen a lot when it comes to writing to them.

Then there’s the fact that when I cash out I am expected to pay the fees. I did not agree to that. It means that it costs me several user tests worth of pay just to get my money out. If I had known that would be the case I would have expected to get 5 points per review by default with anything lower needing a justification by the client.

A satisfied customer has contacted me in the past to ask if future iterative tests could be done by me. I decided to be loyal and refer them back to BetaPunch rather than negotiating something more favourable for myself. That initiative seemed to go completely unappreciated by BetaPunch. I’m sure you can imagine how motivated I am to help them in similar situations in future.

Communication with them, by which I mean the one person running the site, generally gets a terse and unfriendly response, sometimes bordering on downright confrontational, as previously mentioned.

Given the amount of tests I’ve done it seems unlikely that there’s more than a couple of other testers that have helped the site as much as I have. I don’t expect exclusive access to tests, although having a premium level of testing where the pay is a bit better would be nice.

Ultimately it comes down to one thing - I expect at least a friendly tone of voice when communicating with them. I don’t cause you problems, I actively help your business thrive and have referred people back to you when I could have just helped myself. Could you at least, please, use my name when you write to me? I’m not just a cog.

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