Tackling the challenge of remote testing on mobile devices

Emma Davis

Despite it being one of the more time consuming research methods, I’m a big advocate for moderated usability testing. 

There’s nothing quite like watching somebody try to use a service to really hammer home what that experience is like for them. Sometimes you can learn far more just by watching one person complete a task than you could ever hope to get from hundreds of survey responses.

Carrying out this kind of testing remotely has its challenges but this has got easier as more people get comfortable with using video meeting platforms like Zoom and using features like the camera and screen share. 

However, when you start testing on mobile devices, it adds a whole other level to that challenge! Not everything works quite the same and many of the video meeting features on mobile devices are not as robust as the desktop experience.

So, as part of Operation Continuous Improvement, I’ve been looking at ways we could improve how we carry out moderated testing on mobile devices. 

In theory, using Zoom to screen share from your mobile or tablet is easy enough, just by clicking a button in the app, but there are still a number of things to consider that are different to using a desktop or laptop.

For example, an automatic screen lock on a mobile can cause the screen sharing feature to crash and participants might want a heads up that their incoming notifications can be seen, so they can switch on ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode.

To help ensure we cover these points in any sessions we run, I’ve set up a run sheet specifically for this type of testing.

We’ve stress tested the method within the team, which included me carrying out Zoom calls with myself, between my laptop and mobile, trying to answer questions such as “How does the iPhone and Android experience differ?”, “What happens when you use the chat function?’” and “Can you log into a Zoom call with the same account on multiple devices?”.

But as any good researcher knows, the real proof comes from testing with users. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works with research participants when we get the opportunity to try it out in the new year. 

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