Usability Resources

I’m always updating this list; to suggest a product please contact me.

(Click on a product name to visit the company’s website)

User testing software/services

Products in this category facilitate user testing sessions and in some cases post-test data analysis. Some products are designed for in-person sessions while others are meant for remote user testing.

Camtasia - A desktop recording tool from the makers of Morae. Camtasia was designed for creating “screencasts” like software demonstrations. But like Silverback (see below) it’s a basic desktop recording application and can be used to record user testing sessions. Camtasia has more editing and post-processing capabilities than Silverback but is also more expensive. Available for both MacOS and Windows.

ClickTale – A hosted service that records and plays back user visits to your website. You can view individual sessions and usage statistics such as conversion and forms completion rates.

Ethnio – A remote user recruitment tool that adds a recruitment survey to your website. Ethnio can be used as a means to gather respondents for remote usability testing, in-person user testing, focus groups or other forms of user research.

GazeHawk – A remote, hosted eye-tracking solution that conducts eye-tracking studies on your behalf for any website. The cost per user is very low compared to renting or purchasing eye-tracking equipment or conducting a formal eye-tracking study.

Knoa – A user monitoring tool that’s designed to serve multiple purposes such as remote tech support and remote usability testing.

Loop11 – A hosted unmoderated user testing service. Loop11 is entirely web-based and requires no special code or downloads. Test respondents can use the web as they would normally while the Loop11 website gathers data about their usage in the background. Loop11 then compiles summary data such as task completion, paths, and failure points and makes them available in real time.

Morae – A usability testing and analysis suite. Morae facilitates capturing and reporting on user testing sessions. While expensive, Morae probably has more features than any other analysis tool. Whether or not you need those features depends on what kind of testing and reporting you wish to do.

Silverback – A simple and inexpensive Mac OS application that captures recordings of in-person user testing sessions (including webcam images if you choose) and exports to Quicktime format.

Userfly – A hosted service that records data from user test sessions and creates recordings you can then view at the company’s website.

UserTesting.com – An interesting and unique take on low-cost remote user testing. UserTesting.com recruits respondents and facilitates testing them at their own computers, on their own time. Each respondent conducts one or more tasks you’ve defined, and provides spoken commentary as they use your website. Sessions are recorded and made accessible to you online.

UserZoom – A hosted service for remote unmoderated user testing.

Whatusersdo – A hosted, unmoderated remote testing service.

Remote desktop products

Products in this category aren’t necessarily designed to be user testing solutions but can be used as such. The products listed below generally can’t record sessions and they’re not designed to facilitate data analysis. If you don’t need recording and data analysis capabilities these products may be useful alternatives to the ones listed above.

Co-Pilot – A remote desktop sharing solution. It’s designed more for remote troubleshooting than remote user testing, but as with other products in this category it can be used as a remote user testing tool.

GoToMeeting – Designed as a remote presentation tool, GoToMeeting is another in the field of products that – while not specifically designed for remote user testing – can potentially be used for that purpose.

GoToMyPC – Similar in concept to Co-Pilot and other remote desktop-sharing tools, GoToMyPC is another remote desktop solution that has additional uses.

WebEx – Cisco’s Webex is designed as a desktop conferencing tool, but can used as a way to observe the desktop of a remote user testing respondent.

Do you know of a product that belongs on this list? Please contact me and tell me about it.

Usability books

Here’s a small sampling of books I recommend.

dontmakemethinkDon’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition
Steve Krug’s book is one of the modern classics on the importance of usability and user experience. An easy read, it’s perfect for anyone wanting a good overview of the topic.

handbookofusabilitytestingHandbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests
Jeff Rubin has recently published the second edition of this book, an excellent introduction and worth a look if you’re interested in learning how to conduct user testing.

inmatesrunningasylumThe Inmates Are Running the Asylum
This is Alan Cooper’s more or less timeless book on the importance of user-centered design. Though his examples are geared towards software (as opposed to web design) he still makes a strong and entertaining case for UCD.

designofeverydaythingsThe Design of Everyday Things
Another classic, this one from Don Norman. Norman’s subject matter is broader than user experience as it relates to technology. He addresses the experience of every day objects – from tea pots to door handles – and discusses how to  put user needs at the center of the design process.

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