silverback gorilla

My coworker and about page glamour-shot photographer James told me yesterday that Silverback, which we had oohhhed and ahhhed over a few months ago when it was just a holding page with a very cool (albeit almost unnoticeable) parallax effect, has released some hot new usability testing software for Mac.

I tried it out today at work while testing a microsite I’ve been plugging away at for awhile and it’s absolutely incredible!

Silverback unobtrusively records all actions on the screen and the tester’s facial expressions and comments (through iSight) and lets you mark important moments in the video using the Mac remote. After testing is over, it combines the two videos into one file—the screen capture is the main image with an inset video of the user’s face—and exports as QuickTime so you can share the results without a plethora of software licenses.

Four absolute best things about Silverback:

  1. It completely hides itself during recording so the user isn’t distracted by his own image in the corner of the screen somewhere.
  2. It subtly highlights every click with a little bubble in the final video file.
  3. Fifty. Dollars. That’s it.
  4. Gorilla scientist logo, OMG!

The only problem is that you’re not “supposed” to do usability testing on a Mac, since it’s (still!) not the platform of choice for most people. But I think that if you’re sure your site works the same in Firefox or Safari as it does on IE, this is definitely the way to go. At $50 for this much functionality, you pretty much can’t go wrong.

Check their demo. This embedding of it starts mid-way through, skipping the overview to show how the recorded session will look when exported:

Embedded video doesn’t work in all RSS readers, so you may have to visit the actual post.

By the way, Silverback is the creation of an English web design and consultancy group called Clearleft.


Paul Annett on August 1, 2008

Hi Lauren, thanks for the lovely Silverback write-up. I'm glad you're enjoying it and getting good use from it :-) If you're concerned about your test participants being thrown by the Mac UI, try running Silverback whilst in a full screen Parallels session. Although we haven't thoroughly tested this across all systems, many people have found that it does work and is a good way to record usability tests with Windows.

lauren on August 1, 2008

Of course, Parallels! Considering that I use it every day anyhow I can't believe I didn't think of it. I'm definitely going to try that next time. Thanks Paul!

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