Can anyone do iOS device usability testing? Absolutely. There are some great tools out there today that make this possible. If we consider great applications such as Usabilla and UserTesting then we already have most areas covered. Both tools offer usability testing functionality on mobile platforms including iOS devices. With Usabilla and UserTesting.com we can do click analysis and record user sessions, too.
But for some of us, using these tools is just not an option… yet. The price tag, although fair with regards to what you get in return, can still be a blocking factor for some. In this post, I want to describe a cheaper alternative to conducting usability testing, mainly session recording, on iOS devices such as the iPhone and iPad. [Go straight to demo video]
By using this cheaper alternative, you might be able to grab hold of some internal research funding and get busy with the more premium tools, which in all honesty are a lot less hassle free.
To be able to do any of the things I am about to describe you will need access to a jailbroken iOS device. Jailbreaking is required because there are no apps, approved by Apple at least, that allow you to perform screenrecordings. To get your device jailbroken… well, there are enough sites out there that will tell you more on getting that done. A quick Google search will reveal a lot of information to get you started.
When your iOS device has been jailbroken, you will need to open up Cydia, which is comparable to the App Store on your iOS devices, and purchase an app called Display Recorder. This application allows you to do just what is says, record your iOS display. The output from the recording can be in MPEG format or Quicktime’s MOV format. The latter format will help you in the long run… if you are a Mac user at least.
The second thing you need to do is make sure you have a voice recording app on your iOS device. I like to use Cohdoo‘s Highlight (App Store $4.99). There are several reasons for this, the main one being that it allows me to make markers during a voice recording with a -2 second offset. This is great for interviews and you want to quickly find quotes after you have completed your interview.
The default Voice Memos app works fine, too. However, both apps display a red notification bar in the top of the screen when you multitask in another app. I am sure there is a Cydia app to resolve this, but I have taken it for granted in the demo video down below.
iOS Device + Headphone = Results
Finally… getting started. So we have set up our iOS device with the necessary apps. We now need to plugin a set of headphones with a microphone. I like this option because it does 2 things. First it blocks any sound from outside (well, most sounds) for the participant, second the microphone will allow you to record the participant’s thoughts while he is conducting the test.
My tip would be to first start the audio, prior to starting the display recording. The reason for this is that in the audio you can mention when you actually start the test (and hand the device to the participant). This will help you merge the video and audio files later and match the timings of both.
Post Processing, Create the Video
I won’t go into how you should conduct your usability test, so I will skip to post processing. The most important thing is that you are recording the screen of your iOS device and the thoughts of the participant. The post processing will be done using iMovie, and Highlight Player (App Store $4.99) which we need to convert the audio file to M4A format. There is a converter only app in the App Store, too, called Highlight Converter which only costs $0.99
Now, with post processing comes the most exciting part. We create the video of the participant in question, a video we can show our team and stakeholders. Keep in mind, that after you have generated the video, you can again take parts of many videos, highlights if you will, and generate an executive summary video of the conducted usability test.
Importing The Files
The Highlight app produces audio files in CAF format which I have been unable to import into iMovie. After converting to M4A it works fine.
So along with the audio file, we need to import the video file (saved to camara roll from within the Display Recorder app and imported to iPhoto).
Using iMovie I sync the video with the audio and export it all to a video file. As you can see below.
Demo iOS Usability Test Recording
Like I have mentioned before. This is not the easiest way to do it, but it surely allows you to get started with iOS usability testing at a minimum cost. I hope this helps you along your way to gaining more actual insights about your users!