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How to build a DIY mobile usability testing kit


Skyscanner provides five different kinds of mobile apps with six different user interfaces on four different operating systems. This variety ensures that if you have one of the relatively popular mobile phones or tablets, you are likely to have access to the richer and fuller experience that Skyscanner has to offer with its native mobile app.

What it also means is, on the other hand, that the user experience designers at Skyscanner should always keep an eye on all six versions of mobile experience based on the different UI design guidelines from each operating system. It’s a small price to pay in order to serve the optimised experience for the environment with which each Skyscanner customer is already familiar.

We have been relying on our development partners for testing the usability of our mobile apps being designed and implemented, which has worked pretty well. With more and more mobile operating systems to support while keeping Skyscanner user experience of a consistently high quality, however, we needed to establish our own way of evaluating the quality of user experience we deliver via each and every version of our mobile app.

Skyscanner has been running its own usability testing facilities for its website, so the only thing missed was a handy portable gizmo that could record where the participating user taps on the screen – also known as mobile usability testing kit. We managed to build it with just a USB webcam and some other bits and bobs from well-known DIY store B&Q.

Here’s how we did it.

Firstly, you need a structure that is flexible yet sturdy, to set the camera toward the screen of various mobile devices and support it stably. The ‘gooseneck’ part from a LED desk light does the job perfectly well. (£14.98)

The gooseneck should be fastened to a rigid panel where the target mobile device can be attached somehow. A plastic cable cover should do the job (£2.98), with a little help from adhesive Velcro tape (£3.98).

The camera for the mobile usability kit should have the smallest possible enclosure; because you don’t want it to interfere in participants’ eyesight when they are trying to watch the screen. We compared the specification of webcams from reliable manufacturers, and found one that has a smaller camera module than 3cm x 3cm x 3cm. (£29)

Some other basic materials were used to bring above pieces together, such as washers and heat shrink tubes.

So, after three hours of shopping followed by four hours of sawing, dismantling, and rewiring a webcam – here it is: a new addition to Skyscanner’s gadget. Now we can keep a closer eye on customers, and so provide better user experience for them.