usability testing

Recently, I conducted a number of in-depth interviews with members of our company to get a fix on the current status of our project, and to gather any research had been done in our market so that I could share it with other team members. The process was really interesting, and something I'd advocate for anyone who feels like their team has maybe become a little disconnected from one another. Here's a quick list of the technology I used for folks who might also be conducting remote in-depth interviews they will need to review later.

  • The interviews were conducted over Skype, partly because I use Skype as my business line, but also so I could run the sound streams through recording software directly.
  • I used WireTap Studio (recently purchased as part of the MacHeist bundle) to record two streams during the inverview, one from my USB headset mic and other from Skype itself
  • After the interviews, I listened to each one and transcribed pertinent parts to text. I tested several options for variable rate playback, so I could listen to the interviews in double-time (there was a lot of material to review), and ended up using Quicktime Player. After you open an audio file, you can select Window > Show A/V controls, and use the Playback Speed option to chose a rate. For the more pronounced speakers, I could use a 2.5x speed playback. For faster talkers, I had to take it down to 2x. The Jog Shuttle also helped a lot to rewind a sentence or two back.
  • I posted the resulting document in Google Pages, which we use for our in-house wiki, and which will give everyone an option to review and add comments.

The interviews went pretty smoothly, technically speaking. It helped to conduct an interview with a fellow coworker initially, before interviewing the major stakeholders, so I could get any technical difficulties out of the way, and basically do a trial run.

Today I'm reviewing several screen-sharing apps to conduct some remote usability testing. These particular tests have some interesting constraints:

  • My subjects are parent-volunteered kids, 8-16 years old and all in the same family
  • I'm on a mac, they're on PCs
  • Tests should be about 45 minutes long
  • If possible, I should be able to take over the screen to type in URLs

I tested on the following hardware

  • Presenter: Windows XP with 1920 x 1200 resolution
  • Client: Macbook pro running Leopard


Pretty good, but not quite good enough for usability testing.

  • Free
  • Marginal refresh rate (I foresee missing some important clicks and mouse wandering)
  • Requires registration of host and client for optimal use
  • Very easy transfer of control to attendee
  • Nicely integrated chat notifications (for passing URLs, for example)


Pretty much pure awesomeness after looking at all the other apps.

  • Not so free (free for evaluation, $39/mo or around $650 for full license)
  • Awesomely spectacular refresh rate
  • Transfer of screen control is more difficult than with Yuuguu, but not bad
  • Presenter can run a small executable without having to install anything
  • No account is needed on either side, however the presenter has to type in a 9-digit code plus 4-digit password to connect.


Very simple interface, but didn't quite cut the mustard. The Mac version has a permanently disabled 'preferences' menu item, indicating it's probably in beta whether they say so or not.

  • Free
  • Uber-simple interface
  • Extremely crappy refreshing, probably totally unusable for a usability test
  • Registration needed by host, but not client


Not too bad, except for that refresh rate. Darn you, TeamViewer, you've spoiled me!

  • Free
  • Surprisingly works for a mac
  • No installation required
  • No accounts required, just pass a (long) code (and don't forget to type the dash)
  • Fairly dismal refresh rate
  • Rather obscure interface (screen sharing button is a black box in a gray box in a another gray box)

Bosco's Screen Share

I *maybe* should have been wary of the playful doggy-centric identity, but I gave it a go anyway. Apparently you have to configure your router and firewall to get it to work. I don't think I'm going to start a usability test with a router configuration. No sir.


Pretty cool stuff, especially the 3D conference room motif </toungeincheek>.

  • Free for 1-to-1 meetings
  • Web-based, you just need to pass a code. You might need to install some Java though, which could really hang things up in a usability test.
  • Absolutely the worst refresh rate of all the apps
  • Setting permissions for different attendees is pretty nifty
  • Lots of features, like voice and webcam sharing
  • Did I mention the horrible refresh rate?


I guess we'll be using TeamAssist tomorrow on an evaluation basis. The other apps just don't compare in terms of refresh rate.

Sources - Good leads on several apps - Good list, not entirely accurate

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