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Remote Observation for Usability Testing

In a recent usability testing project, we conducted the tests off site where a formal lab was not available. In order to simulate a formal environment we used common software to setup the observation.

The testing room did not have a one-way mirror, so all observers had to be in a separate room in the building. The main goals were to allow observers to

  • Capture the screen movement
  • Listen to audio
  • Watch video of the participants face

We used a combination of RealVNC, Yahoo! Instant Messenger (beta), standard microphone and webcam over a network. RealVNC (on view mode only) allowed us to view the screen movement of the test machine. With Yahoo’s new call feature we could call into the test machine to view the webcam and listen to the audio. The setup was simple to configure and extremely affordable. The quality was excellent. By using Yahoo’s conference feature you could essentially have many people observe anywhere, as long as a network or Internet connection is available.

We used Techsmith’s Camtasia to record the tests, but in most circumstances we use Morae to record and observe within one software package. The setup above is simple and affordable means that anyone can use.