Usability Test: Using Skype for testing the usability of your website.

After I have read the book Don’t make me think! by Steve Krug I have learned that you cannot start early enough with your usability testing. Steve pushes the fact that you don’t have to go to some fancy lab using an eye tracker or other stuff. He recommends to just show someone your templates and ask them to do a task and observe silently. After my experience from last week I can fully support his statements.

But what does this have to do with Skype?

Skype is a telephone software for your computer that enables you to chat and voice chat with your friends and coworkers. But Skype has another very neat feature that can be used to do a very cost efficient, fast and effective usability test!
On Skype you can share your computer screen with a friend while being on the phone. This is not only nice because you can kind of silently observe someone while testing your software. But even better the person will be at home in his everyday environment. I did this test with 5 people. 4 of them forgot right away about the test and about the fact that they are being observed. They had not only tested my website but at the same time have been chatting with people, checking email, surfing on several other websites and so one. So that was a usability test in a real environment and believe me I was shocked! The best moment was a user came back from a chat window to my site in the middle of th process asking loudly: “Oh what was I doing?” and then just reloaded the page because he wanted to start all over again.
Even though I knew before that the awareness of people is low and small I relized it is even smaller!

Sucess of my Usability test with Skype

I was able to see everything they saw and see the users perspective! I could record a video, making screenshots in certain moments and within 20 minutes figure out 3 major usability bugs and several smaller ones. I was able to fix them within 30 minutes of programming time.
Since my piece of software was designed as a Facebook app I could also observe some user behavior on facebook. It was amazing that even experienced users missuse facebook – one of the most spreaded and used websites in the world.
I wish I had done this earlier but for the next piece of software this kind of testing will be done before I go live! Actually I will never again write software without having a usability expert on my team!
Thanks to Skype for offering such a great piece of software!
What is your experience with usability tests and have you used Skype yet to do a quick test?

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  1. Nice idea… the best things in life are indeed free. Will be trying skype for testing shortly. How did you record the sessions?

    1. On linux I use recordmydesktop but I also realized that by now you can use google hangout on air which has a streaming feature to youtube.

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