Usability Testing Hack: Speed Through Videos in Half the Time

There are two reactions to this usability testing hack: 

  1. Doesn’t everybody do it that way? OR, 
  2. I can’t believe the hours I’ve squandered! 

Ready to find out which side you’re on?

Watch your usability testing videos at a playback speed of 1.5 or 2. An hour-long video will only take 30 to 45 minutes to watch. 

When I usability test, I always record and re-watch each session to make sure that I see all the behaviors that were invisible to me at the time, as well as to backup my own notes and assumptions. (Ever finish the sessions feeling like “everybody” missed something, only to discover that fewer than half actually did? This is why I re-watch.). If you’re doing unmoderated remote usability testing through (or similar), you’re also faced with hours of video to watch. Re-watching, though valuable to the process, makes usability testing more expensive for the client, and also lengthens your turnaround time for reporting results. It’s in everyone’s best interest to recover some of this time by adjusting the video’s speed. 

How to Adjust Playback Speed

Nearly every video player has a playback speed control. On a Mac, I like the VLC video player because it’s not obvious how to change playback speed in iTunes or Quicktime (or maybe it’s not possible anymore). If you’re using Windows Media Player on a PC, you can find playback speed if you right-click the video and click on “Enhancements” (I wish I was making this up). 

A speed somewhere between 1.5 and 2 works well for me to be able to watch and take notes. It’s even possible to grab user quotes at this speed. If I’m grabbing timestamps for a time study, and I have already collected my general usability findings, I’ll set the video to play as fast as possible (8-16x) and only look for the clicks that correspond to what I’m timing.

Once you know about this hack, you’ll find yourself watching YouTube at 1.5, speeding through podcasts, and even taking online classes at warp speed - there are so many applications! 

Interested in more posts about usability testing? Read on.