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Screen Sharing: The Silent Saboteur of Genuine Usability Testing?

Screen Sharing: The Silent Saboteur of Genuine Usability Testing?

A new era seems to have ushered in - the one of spatial design. With Apple announcing its Vision Pro in WWDC 2023, it looks like the monumental shift towards designing for immersive experiences is finally happening, after several attempts by BigTechs in the past. 

A brief lookback

Yet, a lot of our current design processes are not catching pace to embrace this shift. In this blog, let's look at usability testing - one of our favorite design research methods.

With origins in the desktop experience as early as the 1990s, usability testing has been widely adopted ever since in the UX Design process.

This research method involves evaluating a concept or prototype by having an individual user complete specific tasks within the experience. It provides real-time insights into the challenges users encounter while interacting with it. These tests can include both qualitative analysis (to understand the reasons behind user behavior) and quantitative analysis (to measure factors like task completion time and success rate). Additionally, these tests can be conducted remotely or in-person. 

This methodology is primarily preferred in case of scenarios which are both pre-product (concept) or even post-product (feature launches, upgrades). One of the key highlights of this method is that it lets you discover how the users use the product in ways you’d never have imagined and allows you to rapidly iterate on them, on the go. However, with time, things have evolved.

When the pandemic hit back in early 2020, research teams across the world were restricted to remote research for any and all tests - a shift occurred in how research is conducted. 

Although remote research isn’t a new concept, and has existed ever since the Internet could facilitate video calling, the pandemic accelerated its adoption and allowed researchers located in any part of the world to conduct a study with a participant, as long as there was connectivity.

Today, a lot of research (both moderated and unmoderated) is still remote and continues to be so primarily due to the cost and time effectiveness as well as the growing pool of participants who are accessible remotely. 

However, remote usability testing has pretty much been mundane. A test involves the following steps:

Looking at the maze

The field of immersive experience design is rapidly evolving, but remote usability testing methods still lag behind and face numerous challenges: 

  1. Setup issues:
    Before participating in any test, a user has to first ensure the due permissions are granted to the testing tool, including but not limited to mic, camera, screen access. While a lot of tools try to solve this via Chrome extensions, it does not remove the friction or effort from the process completely.
  2. Replicating the actual immersive experience :
    Most prototyping tools out there are not built solely for testing. As a result of the, the participant is unable to fully immerse themselves in the product experience, and the moderator is unable to gain an accurate understanding of the delightful aspects and pain-points. We all can recall instances when:
  • Prototype screens with animations/media take longer to load leading to participant losing interest/being distracted and thus influencing the usability metric 
  • The moderator struggles with umpteen links breaking the flow of the test 
  • Prototypes are not able to fully fit in to the screen due to resolution mismatch or browser constraints
  1. Security concerns:
    With links shared publicly, the researcher always has to ensure that the links are either made private after each test, or the password is updated to preserve confidentiality. As for downloading an extension or an app, security concerns on PII (Personal Identifiable Information) being collected always remain a question mark for the participant. 
  2. Analyzing data:
    In the current screen-share experience, information collected with respect to usability issues is unorganized and scattered, and thus slows down the analysis process. There is no simple method to capture an observation (note) alongside the relevant issue.
In a usability study, it is essential to strive for the closest possible approximation of the actual product experience. However, it's important to acknowledge that there might be a few limitations in the current screen-sharing process that could potentially impact the study's outcomes.”

Knowing the full story

This is where immersive usability testing on Betafi comes into the picture - a revolutionary way to make users’ experience products like never before, all remotely.

Wondering how different it is from regular remote moderating testing experience? 

Here’s how it works:

During a live conversation, the moderator can effortlessly display the prototype for the participant to engage with. All it takes is a simple click, and the prototype will promptly appear without any waiting time or additional actions required like installing a Chrome extension or sharing their screen. Be it testing different prototypes or switching between them, everything happens in real-time, authentically. 

With this experience, you can concentrate on observing the user and their interactions, without having to be concerned about issues with prototyping or technical difficulties on the participant's side. Not just this, the participant feels more involved in the process and is able to ‘experience’ the UX in an intelligible manner. It truly catches you up to speed in the modern immersive experience design phenomenon.

Going back to the roots, the primary focus of ‘usability’ is to provide user-friendly and intuitive interfaces. It is the second most important factor after ‘utility’ in the brand experience, hence critical to the needs of your user. 

By incorporating immersive testing, your usability tests become more authentic representations of product usage, enabling you to gather significantly improved insights and set you up for exacting standards that are same as or even better than in-person tests of the product.

It would be ironic if the process of conducting moderated tests didn't adhere to usability principles, wouldn't it? 

About the Author:

Abhinav is a UX Researcher with a passion for creating delightful human-centered experiences in digital products. He has worked with early to growth stage startups in fintech, health-tech and consumer internet spaces across consumer and enterprise products.

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