Making user research accessible, mobile and straightforward

Project Summary

I initiated this project to be able to setup and use a usability lab to perform user testing on various applications that HMH was developing.

As resources and space was limited, the idea was to create and document a lab setup that was easy to pack up and install again, using only devices that we already had in the office’s inventory.


Knowing that we did not have much budget as well as not much support from the rest of the organisation, at first, my manager and I quickly concluded that we needed to spend as little budget as possible while doing proper user research. We were also looking at a solution to demonstrate the importance of usability testing to the rest of the organisation and needed a way to share our findings as well as show how a test actually happen and is performed.

The solution also needed to be non-intrusive as well as remove as many people from the “testing room” as possible as we were testing with kids.


We started by establishing that to get as much useful information as possible from each usability testing session we needed to be able to see what the user was touching (as it was mainly on iPad applications), see what the user was seeing, see their faces as well has hear what they and the moderator were saying. Then we decided that ideally we would need zero editing time to put all these cameras and audio feeds together in one video. This combined video would then be used for analysis as well as for creating clips of key moments important to the final report.

To achieve these goals I used:


The setup using a mac laptop with OBS and 2 webcams turned out to be incredibly efficient as it could be moved around a re-deployed in an hour.

The extra capabilities of OBS to livestream allowed us to invite VPs and managers from other offices in the world to observe a usability test live. This helped them understand deeply the value of the exercise as they could see live the kids struggling with the applications.

The simplicity and mobility of this setup also allowed it be to deploy in a school we had a partnership with to perform some usability testing in context and during the day.

This mobile lab was also simple enough to replicate that I travelled to HMH’s Austin office to create an identical copy so we could perform a same usability test in two locations and get a wider range of testers.