Journaled sessions are often used as a remote inquiry method for software user interface evaluation. A disk is distributed to a number of test subjects containing a prototype of the software product, as well as additional code to capture (or journalize) the subjects' actions when using the prototype. Users perform several tasks with the prototype, much as in formal usability tests, and their actions are captured with the journalizing software. Upon completion of the series of tasks, the users return the disks to you for you to evaluate.
Because the journaling portion of the evaluation is largely automated, this approach to remote, hands-off inquiry is certainly more "usable" then self-reporting logging, where users are requested to write down their observations and comments and send them back to you.
Provide the users with prototype software, journaling software, and a script of test tasks for them to perform. You could make the script part of the journaling software, providing for a higher level of interaction from the user.
In addition to merely recording the user's cursor movements, mouse clicks, and other interface interactions, you can also provide dialog boxes in which the user types in comments or observations at various points in the execution of a task. With some thought, this method can approach the type of interactive inquiry promoted by contextual inquiry.
The main disadvantage of this technique is that there is no observer to "see" what the user is doing--the facial expressions of the user, or even spoken comments inadvertently expressed during difficult portions of the session.
Of course, provide a pre-paid mailing envelope for your evaluators to return their log.
Castillo, José, Remote Usability Evaluation Home Page, 1998.
José has a ton of remote evaluation stuff on his page.
Engineering, 1993, Academic Press/AP Professional, Cambridge, MA
ISBN 0-12-518406-9 (paper)
Clickometer is a shareware click counter.
Invisible Key Logger counts keystrokes.
Other software products that count clicks: RSI
prevention software, automated software QA suites from companies like
Mercury Interactive, Segue,
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