08Jun2013

Several secrets of mobile application usability

No one can now be surprised with the wireless connection. It’s even more popular today than the standard wired connection, since people tend to stay mobile and in touch with each other all day long. We can now share not only the data, but also are one step away from the full range voice telephony due to 4G technologies.

What are the current problems of mobile web programming?

First of all, they shall become rather quick, since no one wants to wait till the page loads. The current bandwidth has significantly improved compared to what it had been like. Still there are differences between wired and mobile application usability. Also the demands of current users had become rather high and hard to satisfy. It happened mostly due to the multimedia content shared through the mobile connection.

Each user is now free to choose which network to use: an old one or any kind of the new one. The time of usage is very well important too. Still the bandwidth in wired or wireless network doesn’t differ that much nowadays.

Due to various devices people use in order to get to the network, experts advise to make all portals in 4 different variations suitable for the following devices:

High bandwidth for large screen

  • High bandwidth for small screen
  • Low bandwidth for large screen
  • Low bandwidth for small screen

8 ways to test usability

1. Testing paper prototypes

The paper prototypes let you know just how information will look on the screen of the chosen mobile device without actually using the page… and the real screen. All you have is paper and the removable flexible sheet with data.

2. Screen recorder limitations

Screen recording app is perfect option in mobile web programming letting any person run the full test of mobile app usability. You can do with screen recorder just anything you usually do with normal program.

Unfortunately there are almost no screen record testers from Apple. Only several screens from Android are available. Sure you can use screens from Cydia, still it’s not always the good idea.

User’s gestures are rarely recorded, so no one will know how many times the user tried to tap the tiny link or tried to use slider option.

Unfortunately, recorders have other disadvantages too:

  • Limited capabilities and recording time;
  • Recording of just one app;
  • Need the expensive app installation for testing on participant’s device;
  • No integration with other testing software;
  • No face and verbal records.

The most successful recorders are actually UX Recorder (it offers facial expression record) and Magitest with its gestures’ capture.

3. Mobile testing sleds benefits

Through the mobile testing sled you can see the gestures of the person, which is rather important for the test. You can come across the person trying to use some feature for several times before actually giving up.

It’s great if you can record also voice, face expression etc.

Here are some important features of the good sled:

  • It’s light and easy to use;
  • It doesn’t slow the person and disturb him or her;
  • It fits to nay device;
  • The used can accommodate its preferences;
  • It switches from landscape to portrait and back without having to be moved;
  • It’s stable and provides the steady picture.

4. Choosing the best camera for mobile testing

Here are the most suitable cameras we checked out after several tests:

  • Logitech webcams (C910 and C615) with their high resolution and good quality – still they’re hard to connect to the sled;
  • Microsoft Lifecam offers good definition and connects to Morae. It connects nicely to the sled, still its weight is inappropriate;
  • IPevo document camera is small and light and sometimes goes with plastic arm. Still it doesn’t attach to the sled quite well;
  • Hue HD webcam is one of the best options due to good frames and resolution.

5. Time for NO technology

Sometimes you just cannot record the session. Imagine you test the mobile application usability of the app meant for breastfeeding women. Highly doubtful they will ever let you depict them, especially if they’re breastfeeding at the time.

Be attentive to your testers and do not freak them out.

6. When the context is not important

Though a lot of specialists insist that the context is mainly important, still the time of the app usage might be even more valuable. Some apps are used at home, the others at work, some even have their special occasions to be used at.

On the other hand, if your mobile app is being used outside for planning the trip, the context will be really important.

7. Environment and context simulation

The connection cannot actually be tested in the lab since it is nice and stable there unlike it might get outside on the street.

For this case you can use the voice command. For example, during the test you speak out: “Imagine you lost the connection. What do you expect the application to do?”

8. Let the user use his own technology

This will allow you to test your app on various devices to check out the mobile web programming level. It’s really important since not only do different systems have various special features, but also people do have different habits regarding their systems. The data search, the public transport planner, the understanding of information etc. You shall keep this all in mind in order to have your clients satisfied.

Conclusion:

When creating the application, test its mobile application usability not only on mobile devices, but also on smartphones, tablets etc.

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