Wednesday, September 11, 2013

DIY Mobile Usability Testing

As the world evolves to a more mobile space, so must our methods and ability to test mobile designs. As mobile devices themselves evolve, it’s becoming more and more challenging to put wireframe prototypes in front of users in a way that stays true to the merits of a mobile experience.

There are many DIY methods for performing in-person, mobile usability testing, including rigs that connect a camera directly to the user’s device and native applications that capture the user’s interactions and expressions through the device’s camera. There’s even an approach lovingly called “the hugging method”. Given the scope of one’s budget, these methods could suffice. However, the User Experience team at Rightpoint often takes a different approach to early-and-often usability testing on mobile devices.

The Audience

At Rightpoint, we always aim to conduct tests with people that have never participated in usability tests before. As we meet with our test participants and engage them with various mobile devices and operating systems, we work to make their experience as natural and comfortable as we can without the test becoming overly intrusive. When don’t you want this for your users, right?

The Setup

Leveraging the UX team’s background in usability testing of web and software experiences, we start by using a Point 2 View USB camera and the software that comes with it to capture the test participant’s interactions with a mobile device. These cameras are not only super easy to set up, but they are flexible enough to enable participants to sit at a table and use phones and tablets in a way that’s completely natural to them while we view their interactions on a laptop.

Utilizing our laptop’s built-in camera, we use Photo Booth to capture the user’s facial expressions, which also display on the laptop’s screen.

To bring it all together, we use the Screen Recording feature of QuickTime on our laptop to record the entire session. QuickTime records what the Point 2 View software and Photo Booth capture plus audio from the laptop’s microphone; pulling together a comprehensive record of the usability session.

We find this combination of the Point 2 View software, Photo Booth, and QuickTime works well for formal and informal usability testing. Each piece of software allows us to fine tune the way images are captured, the size and type of the files exported, and the overall quality of the session’s recording.

This setup is effective, completely mobile, extremely user friendly, and – perhaps most importantly – inexpensive. It also enables us to empower our clients by showing them how to set up the software and hardware so they have the ability to run similar sessions themselves.