The other day all our copies of Morae were busy and I needed a way to
let colleagues observe the use of a website in the room next door.
Basic requirements were:
1. a computer that the user would browse from (PC or Mac, it didn't matter)
2. some way to show what was on the user's screen on another computer
3. video of the user (one or more)
4. audio of what the user was doing
5. hopefully, a way to record all of this
Morae has lots of nice touches like keylogging, a yellow circle around
the mouse (to aid visibility) and click hinting. It also has a way to
mark events with keys on the observer's computer ("X" for problem, "L"
for login, or whatever you prefer). They're valuable features but you
can manage without them.
1: Since we had a few iSight cameras for the Mac, it made sense to use
it for observation and use the spare PC we had as the user's machine.
Therefore, the procedure for the observer machine below is a Mac.
2: VNC, or Virtual Network Computing, lets you access another
computer's screen from your own. That was the easiest way to see what
the user was doing. VNC uses a server on the host computer, and a
viewer, on your computer.
More information about VNC: http://www.cae.wisc.edu/site/public/?title=fswhatvnc
We had to open a few ports in the PC's software firewall. VNC uses
ports 5900–5909 (network experts: feel free to correct me) and made
sure that the TightVNC server updated the entire screen often (300
milliseconds) so that there wouldn't be a lot of lag. Then we found
the IP address of the PC, typed it into JollysFastVNC and voilà, we
had our user's screen.
3. An iSight camera on a magnetic mount was placed on a camera tripod
and aimed at the user. We linked the standard firewire cable from the
iSight to a firewire hub with a separate power supply and a five meter
long cable. This let us watch the user from a separate room.
For software, you can use iChat or Quicktime, but I wanted a smaller
viewer. EvoCam (http://www.evological.com/evocam.html) gives you lots
of control of the image from the iSight. If you have a MacBook (Pro)
with an integrated iSight camera, EvoCam will let you easily select
which iSight to get the signal from, and if you want to use multiple
cameras, it'll let you do that as well.
OK, so now a user could test, we could watch what happened on-screen
and we could see the user working. What about sound?
4. Since iSight cameras have microphones we had sound in. But we had
to get it out. LineIn (http://www.rogueamoeba.com/freebies/) from
Rogue Amoeba lets you pass the sound through directly to the speakers.
The MacBook Pro's speakers were good enough.
5. In the end we didn't record all of the sessions but ScreenMimic
(http://www.polarian.com/) did a great job of recording the MacBook
Pro screen, which showed the tester's screen and environment.
So: computers, cameras, tripods and long cables aside, the whole
"usability lab" cost about 100 USD. I'd love to hear what setups
you've used to the same effect. Guerilla user testing stories are
PS: You could, of course, re-distribute the observer computer screen
using VNC (Vine VNCserver worked pretty well – http://sourceforge.net/projects/osxvnc/) but I don't know how you'd
distribute the audio. Tips are welcome.