All eyes on you Capture screen activity and user reactions with Silverback usability testing

Posted by jeff.ader June 12, 2009

picture-3When designing/building a site, usability testing is often considered a luxury, not a necessity.    After all, there are serious costs involved and the added hassle of finding a usability lab with all the right technical equipment.

This is exactly where Silverback comes in.  Silverback is a downloadable application that lets you easily capture screen activity and user reactions (audio/video).  Then, export it all in one single Quicktime video file.  The software works in conjunction with the Mac’s built-in iSight camera (take that one, PC users!).  While the user doesn’t see anything different on their end, the program is actually recording their reactions, audio, and screen clicks.  Silverback even allows you to use your Mac remote to pause/play the recording, as well as trigger chapter marks where you can then go back and add notes (e.g. a test subject goes to the bathroom…). This is extremely helpful when dealing with a lot of test subjects, and everything begins to blur together.

Thankfully though, you do not have to spend hours supervising your participants in a dreary lab (not to be confused with our cheery lab).  Since testing can be done with merely a laptop, subjects can participate whenever and wherever (Starbucks, in a park, library, on a plane, etc.). Once the testing session is complete, you can add notes to the test subject video, adjust the position/size/transparency of the video, and even choose the file quality (i.e., size) before exporting it as a Quicktime video.

The software isn’t free, though it will certainly save you a lot of money when compared to how much you would be spending to carry out your testing at a usability lab. After the free 30 day trial, the software is only $49.95, with 10% of your purchase going to the The Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

Clearleft has their hand in many projects, including Edenbee, an online community dedicated to the fight against climate change. Custom applications, environmental social networks, and a love affair with all things usability? Sounds like our kinda shop.

Silverback was developed by the usability experts at Clearleft, a user experience design firm in Brighton UK. Clearleft has taken what used to be a process requiring a significant amount of money and technical equipment and bundled it up in an easy-to-use (and affordable) application.

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