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I am new to usability testing.

I want to do a usability study comparing multiple mobile applications that are made using different technologies - for example native, phonegap, appcelerator, etc.

Due to the fact the applications aren't same, how should I approach comparing the usability of these applications?

I'm thinking that platform conventions is one of the most promising thing to focus. Any other stuff I should focus on?

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What is the goal of the study? If the point is to compare the usability of platforms like PhoneGap and Appcelerator, you really should consider building a consistent test application across those platforms; otherwise, your results won't be particularly valid. –  Sam Blake Feb 20 '13 at 14:06
    
My goal is to find out whether you can build native-like experience with non-native tools. Right now I'm considering creating custom heuristics and giving scores to apps made both native and non-native ways. –  thevangelist Feb 20 '13 at 14:37
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just something to keep in mind: Native apps will undoubtedly be "better." The thing you should focus on is whether the difference in quality/speed is noticeable to the user. Jquery Mobile allows for a very native feel using HTML5 / javascript and looks almost identical to xcode's libraries. –  Ricky Mason Feb 20 '13 at 21:10
    
I think that the way interface design is becoming more closely linked to the physical device (e.g. look at the physical buttons on an iPhone versus Android devices (e.g. even difference between HTC and Samsung) will ensure that there is not going to be a common standard for interface design for some time, which means that native apps will always 'feel' better to use (if designed properly that is). The only meaningful comparison I think would be to see how pure web applications (not 'apps') work equally well across different devices. –  Michael Lai Mar 13 '13 at 21:48
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Shouldn't the question title be renamed to Usability research or study? Usability Testing usually involves users –  TotemFlare Mar 22 '13 at 19:08
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2 Answers 2

There are a lot of variables that you have to take into account here, and the problem is that some of them will have direct impact on usability (e.g. the fact that not all the solutions cater equally well for different devices), while some have indirect impact (e.g. the design solutions that the developers use to cater for non-native applications). I am not sure how you will be able to assess and therefore determine the extent these affect usability.

So basically you are looking at multiple apps developed using multiple technologies for multiple devices. Sounds pretty complicated to me, and my advice would be to compare two at a time, work out what are the important considerations, and then put everything together and see if the relationships still hold. I would be quite interested in your progress and results.

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Think about the your apps' User Experience as a result of the following considerations:

  • how good the platforms' conventions are compared to native solutions
  • which platform will allow you to achieve the best UX for your app, compared to your competitors.
  • the learning curve of each platform
  • the upgrade and maintenance costs (investment in time and money) of each platform
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