I'm trying to figure out how to conduct a usability test upon a handset device (smartphone).

it seems there aren't many methods for screen video capturing of a user making use of an app.

Do you know of such methods? or alternatively how to conduct such usability test?

4 Answers 4



  1. Just don't video them ;-) I don't video the majority of my tests, I sit with them and observe and take notes.

  2. You can set up external camera rigs to film the sessions. (e.g. Mr Tappy).

  3. On the iPhone you can get apps like https://www.reflectionapp.com/ that mirror what's happening on the iPhone to a Mac, which you can then record via QuickTime or whatever. I'm not aware of something similar for Android - but it probably exists.

  • A dedicated rig from Tobii worked well for us during eye-tracking studies. Commented Dec 3, 2012 at 16:56

UXD Researcher Laura Bowden recently gave a presentation at my school about this exact topic in which she suggested several methods.

Some general principles for mobile usability testing she gave were:

  1. a. "When testing a native app, focus is on the device TYPE."

    b. "When testing the mobile web, and/or responsive/adaptive design, focus is on the FORM FACTOR."

  2. Before testing on a mobile device, make sure that users want to be able to perform the task you're testing on a mobile device (as opposed to in person, on a laptop, or calling on a phone).

If you want to be able to record what users do on the screen, there are mobile camera mounts for usability testing.

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There are apps (such as RecordDisplay for iPad and iPhone) that let you record the device screen to a videofile, which isn't quite as good at recording the user's every motion, but at least gives you a record of what pages they went to on your site and how quickly.

If you're willing to jailbreak the phone, Cydia has applications that allow you to log the user's taps or swipes.

If none of the other options work for you, you could try using an online mobile-device simulator on a desktop computer, such as the iPhone4 Simulator.

The key thing to remember about mobile devices is that people use them on-the-go, often in particular favorite settings. The most effective testing methods will thus travel with the user to their preferred location, where there may be a lot of noise causing a reduction in attention span.


Get a Huawei Mate 8 phone.

This has a bizarre input shortcut: double knuckle -- double tap, to start video recording, and shows all touches within the recorded video.

I am not kidding. Double tap the screen with two knuckles, instant video screen recording. Quite powerful device, 1920x1080 resolution recorded at 720p. Battery is very strong so you can do this all day with dozens of people. It records the audio, too, so the user can comment as they're experiencing your app and you'll get that, too.

I know this sounds like an endorsement. It's not. It's just the best tool I've ever had for recording interactions quickly and easily, with anyone, anywhere, with any app, and seeing their input and cogitation/digestion time and touches.

It is an Android device, so all other caveats apply.


I think there are two really good options:

  1. Sit with people and watch them - This has the benefit of being very cheap and easy, but the drawback is that people might not want to give brutally honest feedback with you sitting there staring at them :). Plus, you might be tempted to jump in and say "No no no, that's not how you do it" rather than just sit back, watch and learn.
  2. UserTesting.com/Mobile - Head over to usertesting.com/mobile, and set up a few tests. In about an hour you'll have videos of people using your app and talking through their thought process. You can test people across a wide variety of mobile devices for only $39 a test. Full disclosure: I work for UserTesting.com, but I was a long time customer before I joined. Plus, there's a no questions asked refund policy so if you're not thrilled you can get your money back.

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