Observing, Recording, and Sharing Usability Studies on Mobile Apps

When doing usability studies on websites or Windows or OSX applications, it’s easy to see what’s going on on-screen since you can just split the video signal to a display in another room and into some recording equipment. However, when doing usability studies on mobile apps, it can even be hard for the moderator to see what’s going on, since mobile device screens are relatively small and participants have a propensity to move them around as they perform their tasks.

For our latest mobile app project, I decided to get creative about how we record and allow remote observers for our sessions. We don’t have a big hardware or software budget for usability equipment, plus, I’m thrifty. 🙂

I put together a pretty reasonable workflow that worked really well this past week.
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Lark Up! – Day 1

What Is It?

Lark is a sleep monitor / alarm clock device hardware device and iPhone app combination. The hardware is a small bluetooth pod that you wear on a wristband while you sleep and a combination phone dock / Lark pod charging station. They also include a dock which holds your iPhone and has charging ports for both the the Lark and a USB port.  While there is only an iPhone app at the moment, the USB port could be used to charge any smart phone.

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Google / iPhone / MS Exchange syncing

I was very excited that iOS 4 would include support for multiple exchange accounts. Previously, I had my phone syncing with google mobile sync as an exchange service and my work exchange account synced as an imap service. This allowed me to sync email, calendar, and contacts from google and email from work. However, when someone invited me to a meeting at work, I could not open the invite b/c of the limitations of the iPhone’s mail app when hooked into an imap account. Continue reading

Cheap iPad stand

I think this would work as a cheap iPad stand: wire plate / book holder for less than $10. Using this w/ a bluetooth keyboard would make it a lot more ergonomic, as then the iPad could be raised to a more appropriate height use as a monitor. It should make using it for longer periods of time less stressful.

Android vs iPhone: it’s all about the user experience

I had tried out the G1 at T-Mobile stores, but really wasn’t impressed. It has a lot of similar features as the iPhone, but it was a lot less polished and not quite as logically lain out.

Android hardware has gotten a lot better since then. The OS has improved quite a bit as well. A friend of mine has a DROID that was just updated to Android 2.1 and I notice that a lot of the list scrolling (such as in the app management screen) and the zooming in and out in the maps app is definitely not as smooth as the iPhone. The whole Android experience is more complex. It feels more like Linux, which I suppose is not surprising. Prior to buying my iPhone 3GS, I spent a lot of time at the Apple store and at the T-Mobile store trying out both phones.

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Anecdote About the Pre

Here’s an anecdote about the Pre. Last night I was at a networking event and we had to send an email out to the attendees with an update to the directions prior to the meeting. My colleague has a Pre. I was trying to send out an email using the registration site we use and couldn’t edit the rich text form with Mobile Safari. So I asked my colleague if I could try on his Pre. And it worked, but only because the site changed the text field to plain text. He said that was the first time that he could do something on the Pre that couldn’t be done on an iPhone and that usually it was the converse.

So, I’m happy I didn’t get a Pre.

I wonder who will end up buying Palm. Cisco, HTC, Nokia? I’m not sure why any of them would want it. And neither is this guy.