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Conducting Usability Research for Mobile Apps

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Cyd Harrell

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Mobile changes everything about how we conduct usability research. Learn the latest techniques for interviewing, gathering data, and involving your entire team.


Designing a mobile-specific research plan

  • The what, why, and when of usability testing for mobile websites and applications
  • Ways to usability test before apps are built, during prototype stages, and at release
  • Techniques for recruiting, then observing mobile-app users complete an objective

Collecting user data with mobile devices

  • What you need for creating a lab setting, from sleds and cameras to screen recorders
  • What to test with prototypes—and protocols to collect resulting data
  • Pro-tips for making great video and audio recordings


Conducting user interviews on-the-go

  • Tools for understanding users’ behavior in context—even if you can’t be there in-person
  • Special elements to include when developing a mobile-research plan
  • Technical considerations and team involvement in usability testing

Adding research--without blowing budgets

  • Where mobile-first research fits in Agile, Lean, or Waterfall processes
  • How to set up diary studies, experience sampling, or remote testing
  • Ways to conduct usability interviews in the native environment

You ready, Sherlock?

Evolve your testing approach

Mobile testing might mean conducting research “in the wild” or having users bring their own devices. See how to adapt classic desktop testing to your mobile apps.

Get tools you can use

Dispel your fears about real-time live broadcasts, face-video studies, or walk-around research. Hear about techniques that enrich UX over the long-term.

Make research a core practice

User behavior influences technology, business, and marketing choices. Determine ways you can make data collection a regular part of your development lifecycle.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Lead strong mobile-research evaluations
  • Envision studies even at the concept stage
  • Determine when to do (or not do) usability testing
  • Use mobile-research tools to study users’ questions
  • Recruit users for specific operating systems
  • Involve teams and stakeholders in the research

4 Practical Takeaways from Cyd’s Workshop

A real-world method for mobile study

Your users, teams, and stakeholders will benefit from the tests you set up and lead.

A toolkit for doing mobile-app research

Start using mobile-specific tools like dScout, SurveyGizmo, SMS, or device labs.

A repeatable process of learning

Navigate everything from prioritizing prototype tests to recruiting research participants.

A comfort with studying user emotion

Discover the relationship between users’ feelings toward an app and their regular behavior.

This workshop includes a few hands-on exercises.

Cyd will facilitate small-group and individual activities to hone your research and interview techniques. Wear comfortable walking shoes; you’ll need them for observing mobile users on-the-go. You’ll also dig into some diary studies to see what “research platform in your pocket” means.

Cyd Harrell, Civic UX Champ &
Mobile Researcher

@cydharrell on Twitter

Perhaps it’s her poetry influence that makes Cyd Harrell’s usability coaching feel as artful as it is scientific. Regardless, people love learning from her—as you’ll soon find out for yourself.

Cyd was the VP of Research for SF-based UX design firm Bolt|Peters until June 2012, when Facebook acquired the company. While there, she helped clients such as Sony, Volkswagen, and Rdio to conduct remote research and real-time usability studies. Before that, she the led desktop experience and design standards groups at Charles Schwab.

Cyd also is renowned for building communities, which she’s done in San Francisco (as co-founder of Women on the Web), and at Code for America (where she’s a mentor). She’s also an advisor to ethnio, a product that helps people recruit research participants.

Until you attend her workshop, go ahead and benefit from Cyd’s masterful knowledge of mobile-UX research by following her on Twitter @cydharrell.