Mobile App User Testing

Increasing trends towards mobile web are pushing mobile app developers to run regular usability tests to stay ahead in the fiercely competitive market. Unfortunately, high-end usability testing software is a costly alternative so a bit of hacking is essential to bring cheaper alternative in the practice and this post is all about that advanced step.

Usability Tests Inevitable for Better Usability of Mobile App
Usability tests are essential for any mobile app developer because we are living in a mobile era where websites also surfed through mobile screens, and every business is running after mobile presence through mobile app development for the business or profession.

Therefore, just like UX, usability has significant importance in the success of a mobile application in the fiercely competitive market. However, frequently running usability and user experience tests are daunting with old instruments and techniques.

Therefore, the invention of new technique and tweaking with available cheaper technologies is a way to the solution of this ultimate usability testing issues. Let’s see what we are doing in older practices when implemented so we can correct them though some good hacking and tweaking with the latest technologies and tools available today.

Older Practices
For the usability testing, we need to record the mobile screen flow. In simple words what is going on the screen. Moreover, we have to observe the behavior of the user with the mobile app during the entire test.

These two things are essential during the analysis and drawing some fruitful conclusions for better UX and usability needs in a mobile app development process.

For the sake of recording the mobile screen, we were using a “Sled” to mount our smartphone in test and camera on the top or in a position so we can record the screen activity.

At first place, it seems simple but pose multiple issues for better testing and testing environment such as:

  • We need to buy acrylic or the same material from a hardware store and bend it into the desired shape by manual heating or through other techniques.
  • We have to attach a webcam on the sled with the duct tape where we need to mount our smartphone using tape and some Velcro strips.
  • Such kind of attachment is delicate and prone to disturb the position of each component at any moment during the test.
  • The user has to cradle often the smartphone in two hands in order to keep the sled steady, so we miss the natural smartphone experiences occur while on the go and with free hands.
  • Technically, we have to run two cameras and their software on our laptop or MacBook. It is the first camera, as an in-built camera of the laptop, which is recording the behavior of the user. The second camera is on the sled that is recording the screen of the smartphone mounted on it. It leads to flaky performance in recording on a laptop.
  • Sitting in abnormal positions while testing proves strenuous experience for the user
  • Chances of a blackout with a slide mistake in the midst of the test are high.
  • Screen glare and camera focus etc. issues are in bonus and naturally expected for a newbie or less experienced testers.
  • This sort of testing consumes a lot of time in each test and still unreliable as well as end up with the suboptimal testing environment.
New Practices
If you want to do perfect user testing, you should leave the user in a natural condition and make testing instruments invisible as well as should avoid all distractions. Therefore, we don’t need wires, sleds, cameras, and duct tape. Moreover, we need to monitor user behavior through proxy ways so the user can act naturally.
In older techniques, we have to sweat, to worry, and to spend a lot of time over setup and the entire testing procedure. Therefore, we need a new hack that can eliminate all things and need an entirely new set of equipment that lets the user focus on smartphone only during testing.
In due course, we need:
  • A MacBook as the recording device
  • A Windows PC to monitor user behavior remotely
  • A Reflector to convert your laptop into an AirPlay receiver, as it does for an Apple TV. As Reflector allows us to mirror the user’s smartphone screen onto the laptop, so we can see the screen of smartphone on the laptop
  • A screen capturing software to record the smartphone on the laptop
Now, you have all ingredients ready to work in wireless and distraction free environment for testing for you and your user. You don’t need any external camera to record the smartphone screen, and you have inbuilt camera of the laptop to record user behavior seated in front of it. Moreover, you have to buy ScreenFlow software to record reliably the user behavior and carry usability test.
If you want to avoid a note-taker to standby user and note the behavior, you have to setup a monitor on a PC through an extension cable from your MacBook to PC. Of course, take care that your smartphone and MacBook should be on the same Wi-Fi network to work synchronously.
When everything is ready,
  • Enable AirPlay and select McBook from the list and flick the “Mirroring” switch to active
  • Open ScreenFlow and start configuration box for the new recording and adjust the following three settings:
              “Record desktop from.”
              “Record video from.”
              “Record audio from.”

This setup is:
  • Simple
  • Reliable
  • Convenient
  • Flexible
  • Professional
  • Cost-effective
If you want to know more regarding the mobile app user testing and excellent mobile app development, feel free to come in touch with the mobile app development team at Mindinventory for achieving excellence in your projects.