Recording usability tests with Screenflow

This is the first post in a series on hardware and software to carry out usability tests on a small budget, so call DIY usability testing.

These posts are mainly for people in the censorship circumvention technology community ((Open ITP Circumvention Tech Summit)) and those who build privacy and security software.

They have certain needs around maintaining participant privacy, small budgets, ad-hoc testing, and geographically dispersed user groups.

I am starting with Screenflow as it is my chosen software tool. There are plenty others, and I’ll get around to them one by one.

When I have written about each tool, I’ll then give examples of the usability testing scenarios you may find yourself in.

What is it?

Screenflow ((Screenflow product page at Telestream website)) is an excellent application released by Telestream ((Telestream website)). It runs on OS X only but there is a 30 day trial version ((30 day trial for Screenflow)) available.

It is my choice of video recording application as it is very versatile, reasonably low cost ($99), and has very helpful support people.

What can I record with it?

It is a Mac OS X application, and most Apple laptops come with an internal camera and microphone.

Screenflow can record video from 1) the internal camera, 2) any USB cameras, audio from 1) the internal microphone, 2) any USB audio devices, and 3) the audio from the computer generated sound (eg video on Youtube, Skype audio, etc).

The configuration of the recording is done with a simple recording screen shown below.

Screenflow recording setup
This screenshot shows the interface for configuring the recording inputs.

Here is an example recording:

How do I edit the video?

Once you have recorded some video and audio, Screenflow presents the sources to you on a simple time based editing interface. There are a lot of tutorial videos ((Screenflow tutorial videos on Telestream website)) to help you edit video with Screenflow.

Screenshot of Screenflow showing the editing interface

Since you are using it for usability tests, you’ll have only 2, 3 video feeds and maybe 1 or 2 audio feeds.

The real power of Screenflow is being able to record the screen as well as USB video feeds as well. I’ll go into more detail about this in another post when I focus on doing mobile usability testing.

I don’t use Mac OS X

That’s OK, not everyone does. I use it because it is the best tool available for the job I do. Stay tuned for other options for Linux and Windows.


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