Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Remote Usability Studies

I like to call it usability study instead of test. I worry that "user test" makes the participants/users (not "subjects") think that they're being tested when actually the product is being tested. Conducting a "study" sounds more like no value judgments are being made. Strictly business, my friends.

Recently, I've been looking into remote usability solutions and I'm still looking around but here's what I discovered so far: my colleagues and I are using Macs without IE and that is not helping our search. There were two appealing products specifically designed for remote user studies. However, TechSmith's UserVue is Microsoft Windows-only and Bolt | Peter's Ethnio requires Microsoft Internet Explorer. Boo!

I found some interesting presentation slides from Paul Hibbitts on "Usability at a Distance" and at the same time discovered there is a YouTube for slides, SlideShare. Of course when anything serious about presentations is involved, Guy Kawasaki's name should be dropped somewhere along the way.

What my colleague and I ended up using for a 1-hour remote user study session were the following:

  • Video
    • Yugma for viewing the user's screen broadcast over internet.
    • iShowU for recording my screen (including the screen broadcast).
  • Audio
    • Skype with SkypeOut for calling in to the phone conference line provided free by Yugma.
  • Editing
    • Quicktime Pro for cropping audio and video and then manually synchronizing the two.

The overall result was pretty smooth and not too troublesome. I'd prefer less troublesome but we still managed to glean a solid stack of data from the session.

There's also this neat site Remote Online Usability Testing Wiki hosted by Bolt | Peters User Experience. Thank goodness the URL is only -- phew. There's a nice list of remote usability-specific tools but most of them aren't products as much as they are services with products. I've got my eyes on ClickTale. I hope they let me try the Beta soon.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Remote usability studies is such a cool idea. Since you are using Yugma you should present this at their free virtual "second stage" at Web 2.0...