A while ago a wrote a post about our (then new) usability testing lab. Since joining Deloitte I have had the opportunity to design another two, one slightly more advanced than the other. With the new budget and the advancements in digital streaming I considered moving from my analog method to join the rest of the world in digital streaming. After an experience last week, Im very happy I didn’t. When I say analog I know that it’s not really analog because we are using HDMI cables, but what I mean is, it’s not steaming over the network.
From what I can tell many usability testing labs around the world have moved over to streaming the face image, desktop or mobile screen and audio over the network to the viewing room. Even if the viewing room is on the other side of the one way mirror. Services like Morae or Adobe connect can stream everything you need to watch a usability test over the network (or the internet for remote viewers). But with our new lab, we stuck with what we knew. Dedicated physical cables running a camera feed and mirrored desktop to the viewing room. On a side note, we also decided to have the viewing room a few meters away from the lab (so no mirror) because of the sound reason I mentioned in the last post.
A few days ago I had the opportunity to watch a usability test with an external company in our lab using using Adobe Connect (not the one in the picture). Everything that you can imagine would go wrong with streaming video did. It had a delay, disconnected every so often, and when it did disconnect there was no way in knowing where the fault was. Eventually we had to run LAN cables anyway, but this only marginally made it better. I like to think we have a decent network, 100Mb Fibre with a Airport extreme and under 10 connected devices, but still, it just did not work as well as the good old ‘analog’.
I’m very willing to have my opinion changed, but right now it seems digital streaming for usability test is just not worth it yet.