Usability Testing Tools and Technology for Under $100


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This is an IGNITE talk that I gave at UPA 2012 (UXPA 2012) on how to conduct high-quality user research when you don't have the budget for a usability lab. If you download the presentation, you can see the speaker notes, which tell you what I said while the slides were displaying.

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  • So here we are in the typical tricked out usability lab. We’ve got a dedicated room with a mirrored window, a dedicated test system, speakerphone, camera, and microphone all hard-wired to an observation room next door.
  • And here in the dedicated observation room, on the other side of the mirrored glass, we have seats for observers, a sound mixer, camera controls, microphone, recording equipment, and large picture-in-picture monitors.
  • So what do you think that costs? $100? Maybe a little bit more. What if you add in the cost of someone to take notes for you? Or data-logging software? And now all your participants need to come to your lab, so you can get your investment back.
  • So let’s say you can’t afford a dedicated lab – the mirror is too expensive, and your company needs all the office space it can get. Easy. Just set up shop in a conference room, say on the first floor, and have your observers watch from another room, say, in California.
  • That could be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Let’s look at the potential costs: web conferencing software, observation system, and recording software and hardware. I’ll assume that you’ll already have speaker phones and that you can borrow a laptop from an observer or IT.
  • That leaves two things that you’ll need in the observation room – web conferencing software and recording software. You’ll want to record the session on a system that is different from the one your participant is using anyway, for performance reasons.
  • If you only need to share your screen with the one system in conference room where your observers will be sitting, you can use Skype. It ‘s free, includes VoIP calling, and works on Mac, PC and mobile platforms.
  • If you have a Mac, you can record your session with Quicktime. Yes, the QuicktimePlayer on the Mac allows you to record movies as well. It’s on your system already, just select “New Screen Recording” from the “File” menu.
  • If you have Windows 7, you can record for free using Windows Live Movie Maker. But if you’re still running XP, you can use a feature of SnagIt to record that session. SnagIt is used for screen captures and image editing, and you get the whole thing for under $50.
  • But what if you need to have more than one observer? That’s going to require more than one phone line and a web conferencing solution that allows you to share your screen with multiple people. You could use Skype just for the audio connection.
  • But for the Skype call to be free, everyone has to have a Skype-enabled device, like a computer or smart phone. What if they just have phones? Not a problem. You can set up a reservationless conference with free conference call dot com.
  • And if you need to share your screen with multiple observers, you can try Like Skype, it can provide a VoIP phone number, but allows you to share your screen with up to 250 people. Free. And it works on PC, Mac, and Mobile platforms.
  • The observers can hear over the phone , but I recommend adding a webcam to your test system, to improve the sound quality of your recordings. You can get one for around $30. Because it’s likely your laptop mic isn’t great.
  • Now what about a note-taker? If you can’t afford to hire one, and you can’t afford one of those super-cool pens that records conversations while you write on special paper, there are options.
  • Say you already have an iPad – you can purchase a stylus for between $2 and $30. Live Note is an app that records while you write for $6. The notes play back as the same time as the audio, so you can hear what was being said when you wrote them.
  • Evernote is free, works on the Mac, PC and mobile platforms, and your notes get stored in the cloud. It will record the audio as you write – it just won’t be synchronized with the text as it plays back. That’s what the $6 for LiveNote gets you.
  • Now, I have to be honest -- I do love the ease and convenience of having a permanent usability lab. But if you’re an independent or if your company doesn’t have the budget for a traditional usability lab, you probably have budget for these options.
  • Rather than having a dedicated lab, you can get the same high quality results of a dedicated lab at a much lower cost and greater portability, so you can take the lab to where your participants work and live, or even conduct research from the comfort of your home.
  • Usability Testing Tools and Technology for Under $100

    1. 1. Usability Testing Tools and Technology for The viewsexpressed in this Under $100presentation are my own and do Jen McGinn, not necessarilyreflect the views Principal User Researcher, Oracle of Oracle
    2. 2. Camera Mirror Test systemMicrophone Connections to control room Speaker phone
    3. 3. PiP Monitor PiPMonitor Recording Sound system mixer Microphone Camera controller
    4. 4. What do you thinkthat costs? More or less than $100?
    5. 5. Speaker Test system phone Microphone CameraConference room / Lab
    6. 6. What does that cost? ๏ Web-conferencing software ๏ Recording hardware (camera and mic) ๏ Recording software ๏ Observation system (computer, optional second monitor) ๏ Phone
    7. 7. Conference room / observation room Web conferencing software Recording softwarePhone call Second monitor for observers
    8. 8.
    9. 9.
    10. 10. Web conferencing softwareConferencecall number Second monitor for observers
    11. 11.
    12. 12. (About link)
    13. 13.
    14. 14.
    15. 15. Review Free < $100Web conferencing skype& VoIP skype&join.meConference call for FreeConferenceCall.c skype& phones om Screen recording QuickTime SnagIt ($50) Audio-video Logitech webcam hardware ($30 – 100)Note taking & audio Evernote Live Note ($6) recording iPad Stylus ($2- Note-taking input 30)
    16. 16. Web cam FreeConferencecall.comConference room / Lab
    17. 17. Home The viewsexpressed in this Thank you!presentation are Jen McGinn my own and do not necessarily jen dot mcginn at oracle dot comreflect the views of Oracle
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