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Mobile Usability, Testing Testers

As HHS offers more information on mobile devices we are encountering new problems. Technology is advancing at the speed of light, and user-testing equipment must keep up.

What is Web Usability Testing?

Traditional software we use when testing a desktop website records what our test subject is looking at and where the mouse is moving. These tools do not work for all the little devices that now occupy our day. Traditional tools cannot record how someone uses a touch screen on a mobile device or tablet, so usability practitioners have begun to use new tools to test such devices.

Mobile Testing Tools

Recently, we collaborated with Psychster Inc. Exit Disclaimer to beta test two of their latest tablet testing devices: the Usability Platter and the Usability Clip. The goal of testing was to offer feedback on the physical design of both pieces of equipment while they were still in development.

Image of Usability Platter with ‘gooseneck’ camera mount.
Image of underside of the Usability Platter with holding mount.

Usability Platter is a wooden tray that fits the dimensions of a standard tablet. A widescreen web cam mounted on a gooseneck screws into the Platter to capture the tablet screen. A knob on the back is placed off center at the top edge, for users to grasp while holding their tablets.




Image of the Usability Clip not in use
Image of Usability Clip in use with ‘gooseneck’ camera mount

Usability Clip has a widescreen webcam mounted on a gooseneck which screws in near the hinge of the clip and can curve around from the back of the tablet to the front. The clip opens to hold the tablet with two prongs on one side and the arm of the clip on the other.

We assessed the versatility and handling of the equipment by assigning tasks to participants that included typing, swiping, changing orientation. Results showed there is no one-size-fits-all solution for tablet testing. Certain tablet devices and tasks lend themselves to different equipment configurations.

The Results: How These User-Testing Tools Score

On both devices, the camera, particularly the long gooseneck, was viewed as fragile and intrusive. For its next versions, Psychster Inc. is currently seeking lightweight fisheye lenses to allow for a shorter gooseneck.

Participants found the resting angle of the Usability Clip helpful as they performed tasks. The handle on the base of the Usability Platter caused it to tilt awkwardly both in landscape and portrait orientation.

The size of the Usability Platter was well suited for iPad tablets in both portrait and landscape mode, whereas the Usability Clip was best suited for smaller handheld tablets such as the Nook or the Galaxy.

Overall, the majority of our participants (75%) preferred to use the Usability Platter because of its perceived stability. The Usability Platter was viewed as very easy or easy to use by 88% of the participants, versus 51% for the Usability Clip.

For more information on this study, please read the full report.

What tools have you found helpful for usability testing on smartphones and tablets?

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Your Ideas

Submitted by Babette on
I am a very experienced UAT tester. I don't want to give up my day job, but I'd like to volunteer my services. I can provide an example of a test case and a bug report as needed. Please let me know if you are interested, and I will provide my contact information. Thank you.
Submitted by Barb on
Bet you didn't do this on healthcare.gov!