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What is the best method to take notes from videos of a usability session?

Consider the scenario you recorded a usability test (remote or local) and want to do a review of the whole session by taking notes and annotating interesting situations.

I have tried professional tools like Morae Observer, used plain Excel tables (without timestamps) and heard of free tools like VideNoteTaker. Are professional tools of this nature a good way to do this, or is there a better alternative method I should consider?

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This question is probably going to be closed unless you edit it to be less of a shopping request. Try rephrasing the question stating the problem: how do I annotate videos of usability sessions. Possible answers might propose video annotation tools, but there may be other tools/techniques available. If you make those edits you have a better chance of getting an answer that will help you. –  Charles Wesley Jan 30 '13 at 19:41
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thanks for your hint @Charles - i rephrased the question a bit. –  patrics Jan 30 '13 at 20:34
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5 Answers 5

I've just tended to use a media player - and take notes of what happens at different timecodes.

The main thing I'd look for is to be able to slow the video right down - as sometimes interesting things happen very quickly.

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If you are a web developer and are comfortable using HTML5 video - cuepoint.js allows you to create cuepoints and annotations based on timecode.

http://cuepoint.org/

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Why do you recommend this over anything else? Is it better than writing things manually? We don't want answers just listing applications - you'd need to state why using this particular option is the way to do it. –  JonW Jan 31 '13 at 10:21
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I use VLC for being able to slow the video and pause it easily with their shortcuts while typing. This way I can easily switch between note taking and pause the video or slow it down, or just go back 3 sec. Plus it's free :D

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What and how you annotate your videos depends on what you want to do with the notes afterwards and the context of usability testing in the organisation.

These days I'm mostly working in contexts where people are interested in immediate actionable results and are doing regular usability testing multiple times during product development. They're not interested in justifications, or snippets of the videos, or extensive documentation - so I tend to skip using software tools completely.

In this context I generally use post-it notes. Two separate colours:

  • Colour 1 is for direct observations and quotations ("Loved X", "I'm not sure where I am", etc.)
  • Colour 2 is for anything we inferred from the observation ("Signup confusing", "Customer doesn't notice sizing widget", etc.)

Process:

  1. Get as many folk as possible to review session videos at same time.
  2. Everybody writes post-it notes and sticks 'em on the wall.
  3. Affinity diagram at the end of viewing all videos.
  4. Spot common/major problems and summarise

Sometimes we even skip the videoing bit and have observers do this during the sessions - with the affinity diagramming at the end of the day. With this approach you can easily do 5 usability tests in a day, process the results, and have a bit of time left at the end to brainstorm some options for solutions.

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I'm not sure how you feel about a paid service, but usertesting.com (I'm not affiliated with them in any way) offers video annotations, along with an Excel export. You might find that they solve a few other testing problems for you as well. I don't know of any free tools that don't require a lot of work, so outside of the paid option, you may be better off just keeping track in Excel.

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