Applying usability testing to the study of mobile applications and websites brings considerable challenges. Which phone should we use for testing? Can we use an emulator? How do we prototype for mobile? Can we just recycle the tasks we use for testing desktop software? Do we test in the lab or in the field? How do we record the mobile phone screen, user’s input and facial expressions?

In spite of all these, test we must. When we are designing desktop software, we can afford to skip usability testing sometimes. We have done it before, we have a good idea of what works and what doesn’t, and we have a set of well established design pattens that have been proven to work across all platforms to assist our design effort.

Mobile could not be more different. Mobile is new, mobile changes fast, mobile is very fragmented, mobile involves a complex and still badly understood context of use, and mobile does not benefit from well established design patters that work across all platforms and form factors.

Testing with users and the resulting design iteration is the only way to develop useful, usable and beautiful mobile software.

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