Remote User Testing for Mobile: Getting Creative

When in person testing is impossible, how can we cheaply test mobile apps?

This week, I started a UX design internship at a very small startup. By very small, I mean bootstrapped and equipped with a rudimentary mobile app. My job is to test and improve this first version of their app. I completed my own audit of the app, but I knew that user experience is nothing without users — I needed to get more perspectives.

But what’s a good story without some conflict? In this case — I had neither the original designs nor a shareable prototype, just the app as it currently stands on the app store. I could ask potential users to download and use the app on their phones while I observe them. Due to the pandemic, this was not possible.

So how can I observe people use their mobile phones when I can’t sit next to them? My searches for “remote mobile user testing” yielded results that were just advertisements for user testing services, or required software downloads.

As a bootstrapped startup, we couldn’t use professional user testing services. We considered taking screenshots of the current app and uploading those to InVision to reverse engineer a clickable prototype that would work on a computer. However, this seemed extremely tedious. The most obvious answer would be to mirror a phone screen on a computer, then use screen sharing on Zoom or Google Meets to observe their actions. As far as I knew, there’s no “screen share” feature on mobile phones like there are on computers.

Or is there?

Turns out, there is a way to mirror an iPhone screen to a Mac. It’s actually very simple, and uses Quicktime Player, which comes preinstalled on all Macs (link). Unfortunately, some interested testers didn’t have a Mac, but we still sourced enough participants for this round of testing.

We didn’t have time to test whether the iPhone mirroring would work on a PC with Quicktime Player installed — that’s on our to-do list for next time. Perhaps we will find a different method altogether or a workaround for the next round of testing. For the time being though, Quicktime Player has saved the day.

UX Designer, eater, thinker