Eight Lessons in Mobile Usability Testing

  • Published on Tuesday, 02 April 2013 02:14
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If you’re new to mobile usability testing, fear not. It is not as hard as you might think but there are some key differences from testing a traditional website in a lab that you need to be aware of.

Over the past year I have done everything from testing a quit-smoking app with a woman whilst she breastfed her five-week-old on her sofa to testing a mobile car insurance website in a lab. I’ve conducted mobile usability testing with no recording technology out in the field as well as testing using a mobile sled system with webcams that feed into Morae usability test software.

 

In the hopes that I can save other UX professionals time and effort, here are eight things that I have learned from all of this mobile usability testing.

Lesson #1: How to test mobile paper prototypes

One of my favorite quotes comes from Frank Lloyd Wright: “Fix it on the drafting board with an eraser or on the construction site with a sledgehammer.” Testing paper prototypes with users has its merits but how do you test paper prototypes of mobile screens that require scrolling?Showing users a paper mock-up of a full screen does not really test what they would do when they only see the first screen. My solution was to develop a cardboard template of a smart phone with two slits through which a paper prototype can be inserted. This simulates what users would see on one screen. You can easily create your own or download our smartphone template for paper prototype testing and print or stick on cardboard.

Lesson #2: Limitations with screen recorders

The obvious benefit of a using a smartphone screen recorder is that it is unobtrusive and does not get in the way of testing. Users can use the device as they typically would in any context or environment.

Unfortunately, Apple isn’t big on approving screen-recording apps for sale in the iTunes store. There are screen recording apps such as Display Recorder (from Cydia) that you can use to record screen activity but personally, I don’t want to jail break my iPhone in order to record a mobile test session. There are a few Android screen recorder apps available, but even if you find a screen recorder app for your smartphone, there are a few issues.

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