April 12, 2015

Mobile Usability Testing On The Rise

Usability testing for mobile devices has been a challenging adventure because not only is limited technology available to conduct testing but devices change at an incredibly quick rate. However an array of new testing tools emerged making capturing user's activities easier to analyze trends and patterns. In my experience, I have used a combination of different in-house tools to conduct usability testing on specific mobile devices. For example, to usability test for Apple mobile devices the Reflector app was used to give you a mirror image of what the user is doing on the screen. Then I velcroed a webcam to a 5-legged medical pole and extended it over the shoulder of the user as they sat in a chair to record what their hands are doing. I did build a mobile sled by mounting a flexible camera to the mobile device to see user's hands but I felt over the should better was more natural. In the Apple device example, the researcher can see the user's screen on Reflector app and their hands from the webcam on PhotoBooth. Then Morae is used to record both screens as final output. The system took some time to figure out but it works well. Usability testing other mobile devices like Android and Windows requires slight modifications to hardware and software.

I think another thing this week's readings stressed was the difference one needs to keep in mind when developing and designing for mobile - reduce the amount of features/content consumers see. Why is this important? Consumers use a mobile device differently both mentally and physically than a desktop users. A customer is generally on the run or just wants to access quick chunks of information. In this one example, you could see that writing content shorter would assist is reading quickly on a smaller screen. Also a user physically is using their finger instead of mouse which brings into many other factors in design you would not experience on a desktop. For example, a user may swipe on a mobile screen instead of clicking to move content. In this case, navigation can be modified to respond to swiping rather than a mouse click. The user's finger is controlling the experience.

All in all, the attitude of treating mobile devices like desktop devices has to stop because they are two separate experiences. The world has now more mobile devices in circulation than desktop devices so make sure you are ready to usability test them properly. Now more than ever, your business needs to serve up a mobile experience that is simple and takes advantage of mobile centric best practices and features.

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Marc A. Majers

User experience leader, author, and DJ that is collaborative in each moment to inspire continual learning and positive feelings
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