I was tasked with coming up with the remote usability testing setup for running our first set of tests on our Markup prototypes. This also worked out well for me because I would need to use it for my second round of usability testing for my web UI programming class project.

Now, Nate Bolt wrote the book on this, so his various insights were extremely useful in coming up with our rig. However, we had some additional constraints that made the task particularly challenging:

  • This is gratis work for class, so the budget needs to be as close to zero as possible.
  • The test moderator, recorder, and participant will be in three separate locations.
  • Heterogeneous OS environments (my partner is a graphic designer who uses Windows, speaking of UX unicorns).

Additionally, we had some fairly standard requirements:

  • Screen sharing software that needs to be unobtrusive and extremely easy for the participant to get up and running.
  • Prototypes somewhere web-accessible to the participant.
  • We need to all be on a voice conference.
  • We need to be able to record the session, including the participants screen and audio from everyone involved.

I started with the recipe of Skype + GoToMeeting + QuickTime. But that left some problems. We’d be stuck using a free trial of GoToMeeting (for which they want a credit card and spam the bejesus out of you) and that application is not exactly unobtrusive. We also realized that QuickTime doesn’t work well for the recording part because it won’t record system audio. We can get around that by mic’ing the speakers, but that’s pretty wonky.

So, here’s what we came up with:

  • We used JustInMind Prototyper Free for developing our prototypes. We’re using the free trial of UserNote to export the prototypes to HTML for testing. While this violates our free trial principles, they didn’t ask for a credit card and getting the prototypes on the web is the easy part.
  • We’re still using Skype for voice conferencing. There’s a good chance most of our participants will be on Skype, and if not, the cost of conferencing them in on a voice call with Skype is certainly close to zero. I’m interested in testing out voice conferencing using Google chat for this in the future.
  • We’re using join.me for video conferencing. The upsides are that it’s always free and that it’s simple and unobtrusive. The downside is that we have to ask the participant to install a tiny app to be the presenter and then distribute the conference code to us (moderator and recorder), but that process is relatively painless (no more work than the setup to make GoToMeeting unobtrusive), so we decided the slight added complexity was worth the tradeoff.
  • For video recording, the wonky QuickTime setup I described above should work for freeloaders. But I found a Mac app called Screen Record Pro (available for $5 in the App Store right now), that will let you record both system audio and microphone inputs at the same time. Awesome. It’s not the prettiest belle at the ball, but it gets the job done.

I’ll be using the setup for a number of tests for the next few weeks, so I’ll update this post with any tweaks I may find.