5 Mobile Usability Testing Tips

Well, previously, I had too much to say about mobile usability to even begin to fit it all in. See, compared to a lot of people, I embraced mobile technology a little later on. I’ll get back to that in a moment. But, maybe I can sneak the other two things into this mobile usability testing topic, which is also something I’ve a bit to say about, believe you me.

Why So Serious:

Well, like I said a moment ago, I embraced mobile later than a lot of people. I still have almost no use for telephones in general, so the cost of the first few generations of fancy mobiles made them just an absurd waste of my money at the time. Tablets intrigued me, but not enough.

Eventually, I had to start using this technology, and oh man, are there some things about its status quo at the moment that drive me up a wall. Oh boy. I went on about two of them previously, so let me rein in my ire here a bit.


Constructive Criticism:

It’s time to be constructive, and give you some mobile usability testing tips that will help abate this continuing trend of stupid ideas. Now, that’s not to say everything is done wrong, but there’s enough done wrong for me to point out all four major mobile platforms (Android, Windows Phone, iOS and Blackbery OS) on making lots of unwise decisions.

#1 – Causal Links and Ratios

Okay, I can’t advise you on –how- to teach this aspect, but it has to be one of the primary things to get in their heads right away. They need to understand the concept of resolution beyond “how pretty the video can be”. So many people really don’t see past that.

They need to understand how this affects the size of controls when devices originally low-res suddenly sharpen up, while keeping PC ratios. It’s bad.

#2 – Skeuomorphism

No, it really is a word. Skeuomorphism means an idea conveyed via portrayal of older concepts through it to indicate what something is or how it behaves. Icons like speakers for sound, tabs for moving through form panels, grips on things like scrollbars … all of these are skeuomorphism.

Understanding this phenomenon and actually utilizing it in a mobile-specific way would help.

#3 – Input

Ok, let me be more specific if I can. What I mean is understanding why certain kinds of input are so beloved even when they’re no longer viable workarounds for tech limits. People like keyboards, they like mice, they like conventional input motions. Train on how to emulate this efficiently, rather than theories on gestured interface, which I am sorry, is not the future in sight.

#4 – PC UX Sciences

Train them on PC first, but objectively, which will lend them to better understanding how to achieve the other points mentioned so far. PCs are something people are used to, the entire idea around how software behaves is based on PC usability optimization. It can’t be ported directly over, but understanding it can make achieving easy and pleasant to use mobile systems so much easier on you and the user!

#5 – The Fine Line

Mobile devices are designed to be easy to use in the sense of learning and adopting. They drop some of the complexity of PCs, while making that power available if you know how to get to it. But, this leads to software being way too dumbed down and shabby where it doesn’t have to. So, train on “easy to grasp” versus “dumbed down tripe”.

Well, those are the first five big points in mobile usability testing that come to my mind. Maybe these will empower you to empower them to not make the mistakes being made constantly now.


Jessica Miller
Jessica is the Lead Author & Editor of UsabilityLab Blog. Jessica writes for the UsabilityLab blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to usability.
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