Remember those times when usability testing was done in person? With one camera facing the participant and another pointed at the screen so you could carefully observe them and their screen? Such a complex setup is hard to imagine in the remote world. Now, you just hop on a video call, share your screen or prototype with the participant and then watch in real-time how they use your app.
Sounds simple, right? But the problem is that due to lack of the right tools, in order to watch participants’ screens, designers have to test mobile prototypes on the desktop. Testing in the wrong context results in gathering inaccurate feedback. This is because the mobile app experience is quite different from that of a desktop. Things like font size, screen gestures, and adjusting zoom are all treated quite differently. It is not realistically possible to replicate the entire mobile experience on a desktop.
In a way, testing mobile prototypes on a desktop is like attending your commencement virtually. You miss the whole context.
Getting feedback on prototypes at the design stage definitely helps to uncover problems early, but by not creating the right context to run the test, some of the feedback that comes through might be misrepresented.
When testing on desktop, participants often share that the vertical scroll is too long, which is fair from their perspective but is misrepresentative., because the way you scroll on a mobile device is very different from on a desktop. On a mobile device, you would typically scroll with your thumb or index finger, which is much faster. While on the desktop, you would use a trackpad or a mouse to scroll, and some users may even have to keep the mouse clicked throughout the duration of the scroll. So, although the scroll depth might actually be reasonable on mobile, users may feel that it is long and not convenient to use.
Another interaction that is difficult to replicate on desktop is the swipe behavior. While on a mobile device, the user uses their thumb or index finger to swipe from one end of the screen to the other. But in a usability study that's done on desktop, clicking with your mouse does not have the same effect. Designing a certain screen to be sensitive to swiping or more intricate multi-touch gestures on the phone cannot be effectively tested on a desktop. As a result, the user may not be able to appreciate this and provide feedback that’s relevant.
Then comes the challenge with navigation. On your phone, there is often a back button or system-wide gesture which can be used to go back to the previous screen or home screen. While testing on the desktop, participants often struggle to go back to the previous screen as the back button behavior of mobile is hard to replicate on desktop. Generally there is a prominent back button to take you back to the previous page in desktop software. In contrast, different phones have different ways to handle this. Some Android phones have physical or virtual back buttons in menu bars, whereas iOS devices typically provide edge-swipe back gestures. When you test on a desktop, you would not be able to observe these different navigation patterns. Ultimately, it can get frustrating for users to navigate the mobile app if these options are not designed well.
Testing mobile prototypes on desktop really loses the context. So, there is a need to revisit our process of testing mobile app prototypes. But, as of today, there are very few tools available to test mobile prototypes on a mobile device, and the few options that do exist today each come with steep compromises or restrictions on the types of experiences you can actually test.
Betafi is making it possible to test mobile prototypes on mobile and gather valuable, accurate feedback to build apps your customers will love. With the Betafi App, your participants can join the call, do the usability test and share feedback, all directly from their mobile devices.
Our tool is quite flexible as it lets you test multiple prototypes, production websites, and do general-purpose screen sharing within a single session. You can compare your app with that of competitors or A/B test different design directions. We have made it really easy to take notes while showing the prototype, so you record key insights and usability flaws as they emerge during the test. The entire usability testing experience is seamless - both for you and your participant.
Once the usability test is complete, you will have access to participant’s screen feed, video feed, your notes, chat and transcript so you can revisit the session and identify improvement areas. Along with this, we also provide auto-generated usability analytics to help you quickly identify actionable insights to improve your app and delight your customers. You can then generate a digestible usability test report of analytical data, key notes and video clips that you share with your team and stakeholders to together build great apps.
As remote work is here to stay, it is time for you to upgrade your usability test process. Start testing your apps in the right context to gather accurate usability feedback. We are looking to provide early access to designers and founders who are passionate about building world-class apps. Write to us at email@example.com and start testing your app prototypes in the right context to gather right feedback.