Usability testing on the mac - Tools & tips / by Cory

I've been doing a lot of usability testing on the mac lately and have learned a lot from it. One of the best things I've learned is that even though the mac is the most expensive computing platform, it is the cheapest to conduct a quality usability test on. Here's why: Recruiting: Craigslist - $Free (I offer $50 per person that comes in) Mac users are passionate about using a mac. A quick post titled "Mac users needed" on the computer gigs section offering $50 for 90 minutes of your time yields dozens of responses from a diverse crowd in less than 24 hours. I've created a form that i point the craigslist posting to which asks some simple questions related to the type of user i'm looking to test.

Screen recording software: Screenflow - $100


Screenflow, only available for Leopard, is awesome because it allows you to capture the entire screen, internal audio, audio from your computer's mic, and video from your iSight...all at the same time while running un-noticed in the background. You can even go back and edit it down with some simple features. For $100 this is a very powerful usability tool. The downside of Screenflow is that it takes a long time to export as a quicktime movie. An hour long usability test might take 6 hours to export on my macbook pro. I tried exporting the same clip from the new 8-core mac pro and it still takes a couple hours. iShowU is a more dumbed down screencasting software that solves the export problem by creating the .mov file on the as soon as you hit stop, the file is ready to be watched in quicktime. The Tests

Since I myself do the moderation and everything is recorded, it doesn't need to involve anybody else's time. This means that to conduct a full-on usability session of 8 recruits only costs $500. Compare that to the $10,000-15,000 cost of hiring someone to do the recruiting, renting a usability lab with all the equipment, and force 5 of your co-workers to sit behind a 2-way mirror for 8 hours. Seems like a pretty compelling alternative.

Tips for setting up your test mac

  • Make sure to disable any Expose hot spots in the preferences...people use this differently and it can get annoying pretty quick if windows start flying around in the middle of a test.
  • If you use a mighty mouse, or any mouse with a middle click, be sure to disable the middle click. I have my middle click set to trigger the dashboard so its good to prevent someone from triggering it unintentionally in a test.
  • This may be obvious, but be sure to close your instant messaging software like Adium or iChat.
  • Its always a good idea to do a restart before a test...who knows what type of processes are lingering that could hinder performance or cause a crash. Its safe to start with a clean system.