In mid-July I went to an event at University College London
that was all about interaction design and the user experience.This blog post is a quick summary of some of
the key points that I took away from the event.
The theme for the evening was all about how to do remote user
testing.User testing is a subject that
is covered in the Open University M364 Fundamentals of Interaction design
module. Interestingly, the evening also had
connection with another module that I have a connection with: TM352 Web Mobile
and Cloud.There were three talks during
the evening.For the purposes of this
blog, I'm just going to say something about two of them.
Remote user testing
The first talk of the evening was by a representative from a
company called WhatUsersDo
(company website).Here's a quick
summary of the business: if you've got an interactive product and you need to test
it with real users, you can contact this company who have a bank of on-line
testers.These testers can then be
videos and recorded using your products or interfaces.When the testing has been completed, analysts
can review the data and send it back to you in a neat report.
In essence, you can get lots of qualitative data relatively
easily.You also don't have go through
the challenge and drama of recruiting participants and organising lab
sessions.Lab sessions, it is argued,
are expensive. Instead, remote testers can their laptops (and smart devices)
which have embedded video cameras and microphones.
The thing is: how does a recording find its way from a research
participant to a user experience analyst?The answer is simple: the cloud helps them do it.Apparently the WhatUsersDo infrastructure is undergoing
continual change (which isn't too surprising, given the pace of change in
computing).Apparently, the business
uses Amazon EC2, or Elastic Compute Cloud (I think that's what it's an
abbreviation for!)Other bits of
interesting technology include the use of Angular.JS
(Wikipedia) and MongoDB
SessionCam (company website) also helps users to do user testing, but adopts a
somewhat different approach to WhatUsersDo.Rather than to ask users to talk through their use of a website (for
instance), SessionCam actually records where the users look when the move
throughout a website.
I was very curious about how this worked.The answers seemed to be pretty simple:
through the use of 'magic tags' that were embedded in a web page.It also works through the magic of cookies.I also had another question, which was: if
the system is tracking user 'movements', then where does all this data go
to?The answer was also pretty simple:
to the cloud.Like WhatUsersDo,
SessionCam also makes use of Amazon cloud storage.
A really interesting aspect to all this, is that the company
was able to gather and store information about thousands of user
interactions.The company could then
create what was known as 'heat maps'.These were rough pictures of where users go to on a website.
This event has taught me two things: the first is the
interesting ways that cloud technology can be used to create a niche business
or service.Secondly: the unassailable
fact that I need to always keep up with changes in software technology.
I've seen Angular mentioned on an increasing number of job
adverts.A quick skim read about it
mentions some bits of tech that I have used at various times: HTML, the DOM,
it.The same applies to MongoDB: I know
what it is, and I know what it does, but I have never found the time to mess about
with it.This is something that I really
ought to do!(And the same applies with
the use of Python, and this might well become a subject of another blog post).
In some respects, these companies represent two mini case
studies about the use of cloud technologies.A couple of months back, I went to a talk about a company that shared
financial data 'through the cloud'.There are loads of other examples out there.