10 UX Tools I Couldn’t Live Without: Oct 2014 Version

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SolidifyApp – Mega simple prototyping/click tracking tool for desktop and mobile usability testing.

UXRecorder – Mobile usability testing app (Create a native prototype in SolidifyApp and run it through UXRecorder = Magical).

Silverback App – Mac usability testing.

Trello – Organize all the things.

Skitch – Fab for UX reviews.

Balsamiq – Best collaborative wire framing tool on the market.

TargetProcess – Track Design/Development/QA progress and burndown.

GoToMeeting – Design collaboration via video chat/recording sessions & screen sharing with Audio.

Google Analytics – Analyze how your clients are using your product, look for pain points, adjust UX accordingly.

InVisionApp – Hi res desktop and mobile prototyping.

Bonus Tool:

Spotify – Great music gets the creative juices flowing!

Usability Testing: The Money Saving Ego Killer


Ever had a feature idea, tested it and had clients hate on the idea so hard during usability testing that it completely crushed your ego?

It happens. But the thing to remember when it happens is that if you hadn’t tested it, you’d have spent a ton of cash in wasted man hours developing something no one wants!

Better to have just your ego crushed early, rather than your ego AND your wallet crushed later!


Reason #9072 You Should Always Record Usability Tester Facial Video and Audio


We’ve all been there right? You’re conducting a usability test, and your tester is slamming the mouse around angrily until he or she FINALLY figures out how to complete the assigned task. 

Then, when asked to rate the task, the tester smiles politely and says it was “easy”. 

It’s obviously not true, but if you don’t record audio and video, and only go on tester rating, you’ll never know to fix the issue. 

Audio and video allow you to look past verbal responses into what is really going on with your testers. You can look for facial expressions relating to frustration and anger, listen for under the breath profanity, and just generally get a more holistic view of how your testers really feel. 

Not recording tester audio and video does you a huge disservice. 

Give it a shot. It’ll help you uncover the testers who are lying, consciously or subconsciously, and will give you better data. 

Icon Usability Testing: Keep Your Product Names Out Of It

Time To Test Some Icons

Recently we launched a mobile icon usability test to help us select icons to represent several areas of our product in an upcoming mobile app release. We split our testers into two groups.

Test Setup (Words Matter!)

The first group got a test that asked them to select the icon they felt best represented the product we listed. (For example: Select the icon that best represents MyView.) These users are familiar with our products, and know how MyView functions.

The second group got a clickable test that sent them through the same flow, but rather than listing the product names, we listed descriptions of what the products do. We did this because the icons were going to be for general public use, not for folks who were necessarily familiar with our product names. These users are also familiar with our products, and know how MyView functions, but we explained it rather than listing the product title.

Results = Fascinating!

Our results were really fascinating. When we asked the first group to pick an icon that best represented MyView, a large proportion of them picked an icon that contained an eye. When asked why they selected that icon, they mentioned associating the word “view” with an eye.

When we asked the second group to pick an icon that best represented a screen which they could customize to make it display content that was most important to them, they overwhelmingly selected an icon with a star included. When we asked them to explain why they selected the icons that included a star, they explained that the description made them think of a screen full of their favorite content, and they associate “favorites” with a star icon.

The Moral of the Story – Stay Away From Product Names When Testing Icons

When you’re launching a usability test, especially one that will be used to help select iconography, keep your product names out of the equation. Describe the areas or products or features that you’re trying to represent instead, to ensure that you’re not accidentally tainting your tester opinions and results.

When Usability Testers Scream at You Silently


So recently I was standing in my new kitchen reaching for a drawer because I needed a spoon, and I said out loud, “Oh, duh, wrong drawer.” Then I realized that the wrongness was that the spoons were being stored in a drawer that didn’t make ANY sense from an ergonomic point of view. They were far away from the stove and the mixing bowls and every other thing that I would ever be using a mixing spoon for. So rather than continuing to feel stupid for reaching for the wrong drawer, I switched the drawers.

When I’m doing user research, I often come across this phenomenon. Users say things like, I couldn’t find the button, I expected it to be over here. And there are often trends in the feedback. The “expected it to be over here” location tends to be similar for groups of people, which means we’ve definitely “put our spoons in the wrong drawer”.

We had a design recently in which tester after tester gave the feedback, “I couldn’t find the button.” (It was on the far right hand side of the screen at the top.) We reran the test with an alternate group with the button still on the right but closer to the center of the screen, and not a single tester had any issue.

Sometimes when you do research, your users are speaking in code. They don’t jump up and down and scream “Change X right now, it’s ruining my experience with your product!” Instead, they frown and mutter, “Where the #$&% is that button?!” Sometimes, (often times) it’s what people DON’T mention in their feedback, that’s key. It’s the interaction they pause on, or the button they can’t find.  As a researcher it’s your job to really listen when your product UX speaks to you through your testers non verbal communications.

This is one of the reasons I love tools like UX recorder and Silverback. Facial expressions and pauses in click tracks are huge indicators of areas you need to work on, often more so than verbal or written feedback.

Have you ever had a tester struggle and curse their way through your usability test only to say, “That was so easy!” at the end? Always listen, but also watch and let yourself absorb what your testers are feeling while they experience your product to get a full picture of which areas you should focus on.

Some of the best UX pros I’ve met are avid people watchers, and folks with tons of empathy to spare, who really tune in when people are telling them things. They don’t just listen to what testers are saying, but observe their body language, and pay attention to whether or not emotions are hitting the eyes. They’re the ones who catch it when testers are screaming silently during a usability test.

Identifying the right areas to focus on can be tricky but if you really listen to what’s said as well as what isn’t said, you’ll create fabulous user experiences whether you’re working on button placements, interaction flows or where to place drawers full of spoons.

New to Usability Testing? You’re not alone!

You Are Not Alone!

I recently presented a user research method that I found particularly helpful at a tech conference, and at the start of the session I asked how many of the 60+ attendees had performed usability testing. A majority of the hands in the room went up. I then asked, “How many of you had usability testing listed as part of your original job description when you started your job?”

All but 2 hands went down.

2 out of 60+ people had expected to dive into usability testing. And that was when it hit me. I was not alone in my baptism by fire introduction to usability testing. I was standing in front of a room full of people who had been in the same boat I’d been in when I started!

How I Landed In Usability Testing Land

I was hired as a UX Editor and Content Strategist, with a primary focus on defining our product voice and tone through consistent screen copy & error messages, as well as editing wireframes to make sure that interactions flowed smoothly and in a way that would make sense to our user base. A fellow UX Editor specialized in usability testing, so I didn’t really dabble in it much in the beginning.

You’re Doing What Now?!

We had a pretty great system going until a few years ago, when she announced that she was leaving to fulfill her lifelong dream of starting a restaurant.

You Want Me To Test Who, With What?!

I had literally zero experience with usability testing, other than observing what she had done during a round of moderated testing in our office, which was both recorded and live broadcasted to our design and development teams in a conference room. (She rocked it and we got killer feedback.)

I would not be exaggerating if I said that I had a giant panic attack the moment that I realized that all of the companies usability testing needs were going to fall on me when she left, but I found it exciting at the same time! I’ve ALWAYS been a people watcher, and have a background in Psychology, so figuring out why people do the things they do and how to make their lives easier went from a hobby, to part of my job description!

My coworker gave me a great crash course in tools she had been using, pointed out the websites she’d found helpful, gave me a manilla folder full of test results and a zip file that contained her research results. And with that, I dove in. I’m lucky to have an incredibly supportive innovative VP and an equally amazing manager who helped me get my sea legs and introduced me to some awesome tools and tricks they’d come across as well, and then I was hooked.

Love It!!

I started scouring the web for the latest and greatest in testing tools and research methods, and haven’t stopped since, I can’t get enough! It’s almost an illness. I love testing all the things!

Don’t Get Overwhelmed!

For all of you out there who are just getting started, and you’re feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin, don’t despair! There are some great tools out there that make usability testing a breeze! I have a list of some of my favorites out at https://userexperiencerocks.wordpress.com/favoritetools. I hope you find them helpful!

A Few Articles To Get You Started

To get you started, I’ve written a couple posts about some of my favorite testing methods, recruiting methods, and tools. I hope you find these helpful as you begin your journey into the wonderful world of usability testing!

MailChimp and Survey Monkey: 2 Tools That Make Recruiting Remote Usability Testers Easy and Fun

SolidifyApp: Prototyping in Minutes

Card Sorting: How do I analyze all of this crazy data?!

UX and Design Tools That Will Improve Your Productivity

Mobile Usability Testing Tools

A Complete Moderated Mobile Usability Testing Solution

Pareto Principle Based User Research Methodology

In Closing: We Heart You And Welcome To Our Awesome UX Community!

You are NOT alone! You’re surrounded by an amazing, supportive UX community! Get on Twitter and search for UX, and start following the folks that pop up in your search results! Some of the coolest tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years have come from articles I’ve seen posted by other UX pros on Twitter!

With that I’ll leave you with the wise words of Steve Krug: “Testing one user is 100% better than testing none.

Now get out there and start making the world a better more usable place! 🙂

Pareto Principle Based User Research Methodology

Recently I had the opportunity to present at the 2013 Web Conference at Penn State. My session focused on some Pareto Principle Based User Research that I’d had the opportunity to conduct for Schoolwires. We are always interested in new user research methods and usability testing tools. We’ve found some great ones over the past few years, but this particular research method was probably one of the most powerful.

It’s Quick and Cheap

To be honest, we have an extremely supportive senior management team, so we have the resources available to spend whatever is necessary to to ensure that our testing is getting done thoroughly and the right way. It just so happens though, that this method is incredibly cheap!

If you’re working for a company that keeps telling you that you don’t have the time, money or resources available to conduct user research, then this is the study for you. It’s amazingly quick & cheap, and it yields powerful results!

This PowerPoint Reads Like a Blog

You’re going to notice that these presentation slides are really plain, and bulleted and detailed. I wanted folks who attended my session to be able to download the presentation and recreate the entire study with ease when they left the conference and went back to their organizations, so I wrote the presentation more like a blog post.

Check It Out

You can check it out here: User Research Power Tool: Pareto Principle Based Usability Research

I hope you all find this research method as beneficial as our organization did!

A Complete Mobile Usability Testing Solution

The Problem

Recently I wrote a blog post about how there are currently a couple of really great mobile usability testing tools out there, but I couldn’t find any that did everything I needed.

I tweeted my article, and one of the partners at Zurb shot me a message. We got chatting about SolidifyApp and UXRecorder and how I really wished there was a single tool that did what those two tools do best.

SolidifyApp lets you create clickable prototypes for usability testing, then does gesture tracking, allows you to create tasks that need to be completed by testers, gives them the opportunity to give feedback and then gives you some killer stats.

UXRecorder does screen & gesture capture, as well as audio & front facing camera video capture of tester faces.

The Solution

UXRecorder lets you enter URL’s for web apps and prototypes. I tested it this afternoon and you can also enter your SolidifyApp Usability Test URL in UXRecorder, and combine the best of both worlds into one killer Mobile Usability Testing solution!

To recap, by running your SolidifyApp test in UXRecorder you can obtain:

1. Gesture tracking data
2. Screen capture video
3. Gesture capture video
4. Front facing camera tester facial video
5. Tester audio
6. Task completion statistics
7. Written user feedback
8. Etc!

It does all the things! It’s Mobile Usability Testing magic, I’m telling you! And, it only takes minutes to set up! Goodbye Mobile Usability Testing market gap! I am majorly pumped about this solution!

Free Stuff

The best part? SolidifyApp has a 30 day free trial, and UXRecorder gives you a 30 second free session to test their app out before you commit to purchase to ensure that it’s the right solution for you! (I can tell you from experience that once you’ve tried SolidifyApp, you’ll want to subscribe. It’s currently one of my favorite usability testing tools!)

SolidifyApp http://www.solidifyapp.com

UX Recorder http://www.uxrecorder.com

I’ve been searching for weeks trying to find this Mobile Usability Testing combination! I hope it serves you all well!

Mobile Usability Testing Tools

So I recently started searching like a maniac trying to find some Mobile Usability Testing tools, and I had a heck of a time finding any resource lists! So I decided to put one together for anyone else who is searching in vain.

1. SolidifyApp

So it’s no secret that I am a giant fan of Zurb, specifically their SolidifyApp. It’s an absolutely awesome quick and dirty prototyping tool, that also lets you launch really simple remote usability tests with ease! It even has a template for launching MOBILE remote usability tests! Which, at the present moment is something kind of lacking in the industry! You create the test, add your pics, throw it in mobile chrome, pick your audience, and voila! You’ve got a remote mobile usability test ready to rock. You just copy the link and email it to folks. They can open it on their mobile devices and go to town. The nice thing is, it works on any device. You can even give them tasks to complete and ask for feedback. It records their screen gestures along the way, and automatically tracks stats. This is a great tool for testing prototype versions of mobile concepts remotely, to ensure that you’re on track without spending a zillion dollars developing a tool that is totally wrong for your client base/audience.

2. UXRecorder

UXRecorder is REALLY close to bordering the perfect Mobile Usability testing tool. You install the app, pull up your web property or prototype URL, and hand it to your tester. The app does screen capture, records user audio and video, and records gestures. So you can see the persons face while they do their thing and hear whether or not they are cursing out your web app, along with having a visual of where they are swiping. This is a moderated testing tool since you have to build your prototype in your account, and pass it around on your device, but it’s the closest I’ve seen to my ideal mobile usability testing tool. (I’ll outline my dream tool at the end of this article.)

3. POP (Prototyping on Paper)

This app is pretty sweet. You can create prototypes right on your mobile device. The premise is nice, you just pick up your phone, snap some pictures of sketches on post-its or napkins, or fancy high-res mockups, string them together into a prototype, and then share your concept with your usability testing community or whomever else you choose. They’re working on an android version as we speak, but the iPhone version is pretty solid. And it’s fun. And, it’s another way to create simple prototypes in seconds to make sure that your concepts on are point with what your clients need.

4. Lookback.io

Lookback.io is pretty awesome. You integrate it right into your app. It records screen capture, gestures, user video and audiobooks . Also, it’s free while it’s in public Beta.


5. My Dream Mobile Usability Testing Tool

So what I really want in a tool, is the ability to send a link to a user that will launch a testing tool on the mobile device or tablet of their choice. I want it to record audio, video, screen capture and gestures, and I want to be able to set tasks for users to complete and have it automatically track stats. I want it to work with web apps, responsive sites and native apps. Basically what I’m looking for is a mashup of SolidifyApp and UXRecorder. This is my mobile usability testing tool holy grail. Oh, and since it’s already a thing on mobile now, we could toss in eye tracking as an added bonus. 🙂

I hope you find these mobile usability testing and prototyping tool descriptions helpful, and that this list will save you a few hours of Googling! 🙂

UX and Design Tools That Will Improve Your Productivity

This is a list of some of my favorite UX, design and accessibility testing tools at the moment! I hope you find them useful!

Tools for Collaboration

Tools for Usability Testing

Usability Testing Services That Provide Testers

Tools for Mobile Usability Testing & Prototyping

Tools for Usability Tester Recruiting

Mac Tools for Demoing Apps

Tools for Stat Tracking

Tools for Accessibility Testing

Miscellaneous Tools I Love

If any of your favorite tools aren’t listed, please feel free to leave them in the comments! I love testing out new tools! 🙂