Watching people use software

Developers who possess deep but tacit knowledge of complex hardware and software environments are notoriously unable to project themselves into the beginner's mind. Observation is the only way to bridge the gap. [Full story at]
This story grew out of my ongoing experimentation with capturing both live video and screen video. These technologies motivated two columns and a series of related blog entries (1, 2, 3). When I got interested in this stuff, months ago, I figured there ought to be a market developing around it. As it turns out, that's happening. One of the products featured in this story -- TechSmith's Morae -- shipped in March. The other, UsersFirst's VisualMark, is just entering beta. Both are harbingers of what I expect will be an emerging trend: the pervasive use of live video and screen video, in combination, to observe and analyze how people really use (or fail to use) software.

The story includes an interview with Chris Rockwell of, a company that specializes in user research and interaction design. I really enjoyed my interview with Chris. In this 9 minute clip from our conversation, we discuss the value of raw user-experience instrumentation versus post-production highlights, the possibility of observing users throughout the lifecycle of deployed software, and the gap between users' and programmers' mental models.

Former URL: