Testing usability of mobile applications

4 Dec 2006 - 7:02am
7 years ago
3 replies
564 reads
Anu Leponiemi
2006

Hi,

I'm planning on usability-testing a S40 application, and would like
to hear about the ways you tend to test usability of mobile
applications. Paper prototype is always an option, however, is that
all you do, or do you test with real devices? If so, do you capture
the input some ways, possibly with a software or a camera, or do you
just watch the user use his mobile?

Regards,

LePo

--
Anu Leponiemi * anu (thingie) lepo.net * +358 40 525 7328 * www.lepo.net

Comments

4 Dec 2006 - 11:24am
Barbara Ballard
2005

On 12/4/06, Anu Leponiemi <anu at lepo.net> wrote:
> I'm planning on usability-testing a S40 application, and would like
> to hear about the ways you tend to test usability of mobile
> applications. Paper prototype is always an option, however, is that
> all you do, or do you test with real devices? If so, do you capture
> the input some ways, possibly with a software or a camera, or do you
> just watch the user use his mobile?
>

I recommend avoiding simulators and emulators, and restricting
yourself to paper prototypes and on-device code. Of course, each of
these reveals different issues.

Right now, there is no reliable way (across multiple devices, S40 may
be a single-platform exception) to capture user input on the device.
When such a method becomes available, test it carefully to ensure that
it does not adversely affect device performance.

A couple years ago, I posted an overview of mobile usability testing
on my site:
http://www.littlespringsdesign.com/analysis/utest/

The information is still valid, but we will be updating it soon.

We built a sled to hold the device and a camera focusing on the
device, then used a mounted camera to capture the user's facial and
body expressions. This left our video tech/photographer in the room,
who could now capture telling still shots as well. This has been
working quite well.

--
Barbara Ballard
barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003

4 Dec 2006 - 12:19pm
Mark Schraad
2006

We have had some good luck going slightly beyond paper prototyps with Axure. It exports html from a visio/ grafle like ap. We do not use it on the small screen, but can simulate a lot of interactivity. Another product we looked at was PhotoProto... but frankly, Flash seemed better and nearly as quick to develop.

Mark

On Monday, December 04, 2006, at 11:54AM, "Barbara Ballard" <barbara at littlespringsdesign.com> wrote:
>On 12/4/06, Anu Leponiemi <anu at lepo.net> wrote:
>> I'm planning on usability-testing a S40 application, and would like
>> to hear about the ways you tend to test usability of mobile
>> applications. Paper prototype is always an option, however, is that
>> all you do, or do you test with real devices? If so, do you capture
>> the input some ways, possibly with a software or a camera, or do you
>> just watch the user use his mobile?
>>
>
>I recommend avoiding simulators and emulators, and restricting
>yourself to paper prototypes and on-device code. Of course, each of
>these reveals different issues.
>
>Right now, there is no reliable way (across multiple devices, S40 may
>be a single-platform exception) to capture user input on the device.
>When such a method becomes available, test it carefully to ensure that
>it does not adversely affect device performance.
>
>A couple years ago, I posted an overview of mobile usability testing
>on my site:
>http://www.littlespringsdesign.com/analysis/utest/
>
>The information is still valid, but we will be updating it soon.
>
>We built a sled to hold the device and a camera focusing on the
>device, then used a mounted camera to capture the user's facial and
>body expressions. This left our video tech/photographer in the room,
>who could now capture telling still shots as well. This has been
>working quite well.
>
>
>--
>Barbara Ballard
>barbara at littlespringsdesign.com 1-785-838-3003
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4 Dec 2006 - 7:31pm
Jeff Howard
2004

In grad school I used Flash Lite to prototype a few of the later
iterations of a mobile wayfinding application. In that case, testing
in the mobile enviornment was critical since the design relied on a
combination of environmental landmarks and interface cues and you
don't get that combination in a lab. It was also helpful to see how
the interface performed under a range of lighting conditions.

In these tests, I gave the user a phone (s60) with the prototype
installed, and then shadowed them as they used the device to perform
a series of tasks. I took notes and encouraged the user to think
aloud during the test, and followed up after with a brief interview.

These tests took place over the course of a week, with nightly
iterations on the prototype to accomodate feedback and push certain
facets of the design.

// jeff

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