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Usability Testing with Google Hangouts

Wed 2nd April 2014

I want to implement Steve Krug’s budget usability testing lab where I work. It is described in detail in his book Don’t Make Me Think, but in summary it involves sitting a user down at a computer, getting them to use your website or software to do some predefined tasks, all the while streaming the video of their efforts to the developers in another room. Krug suggests you do this using a relatively cheap camcorder and some cables to transmit it to the other room.

I want to do this, because I feel the software we procure, and sometimes the software (largely websites) that we develop, seriously lack in usability, purely because we don’t make it an important part of the purchasing or development process. I want to make it so easily available that we have no excuse for not doing it.

While I do have a camcorder to hand, my initial plan was to use screen capture, webcams and video streaming to make this an even lighter weight endeavour. It would also be nice to record the entire thing to watch back later.

My first stop was Google Hangouts. I knew for certain that Hangouts allows webcam streaming and screen sharing. However, I wasn’t sure how well it would work for this or if I could do both at the same time.Hangouts SussedIt appears that you cannot stream webcam and screen share at the same time, which is a shame. It might be possible by using two Google accounts, but that seems a little overkill and would make the setup tricky.

The big killer is how slow the visual response is. Moving around on the source computer results in very laggy movement on the viewing computer. I don’t think this will give a good enough experience for the developers watching, and will reduce the likelihood that they will use it.

Unfortunately, I don’t think Google Hangouts is the right solution to this problem. As it is free and relatively easy to setup, I was hoping it would allow me to rapidly get this up and running, but it looks like I will have to try something else.

Suggestions of other software that will stream and record screen captures, webcam and audio in the comments below would be much appreciated!


From → Programming, The Web

One Comment
  1. Suggestions:
    – From Jonny:
    – From Tom:
    – From Colin: VNC + SIP

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