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A Better Mousetrap

By March 13, 2012 No Comments

“We tend to run “FedEx” with a fairly open format where you can do whatever you want as long as you can somehow relate it to our products.”Atlassian

Last week, my company gave us an exciting opportunity: 5 days of work on a project related to our business.

Apparently, they’ve done something like this before, long before my time, so you’d have to ask some of the more tenured folks at Daxko about it.

I worked with the same folks who volunteered with me at the WebVisions Hackathon earlier this year and we kept in mind what my colleague Will said about that experience: “The short time box and no feature constraints necessitated a laser-sharp focus on one thing.”

So we noodled over several viable candidates and finally settled on building a better mousetrap – or, in this case, UsabLog.

A clarification on terminology from my UX colleague: “Logging” in this context doesn’t mean “system logging of events.” It means human capture of what the user said, what the user did in the app (e.g., where user clicked), and any additional comments to provide context. The point of logging is to provide us with a record of what went down so we have an accurate recollection for later analysis.

I had the good fortune to be a user of the original UsabLog application over the course of many usability sessions as a session logger, so I was rather familiar with its strengths and weaknesses. I was able to contribute some bug reports and feature suggestions for consideration during our lunchtime planning discussions, but my Scrum team’s UX designer was our team’s sponsor. She compiled an experiment plan that identified our purpose and detailed the problems we considered in the pre-existing Usablog and the opportunities we had to satisfy those needs.

Our usability sessions up to this point involved an interview led by the facilitator (i.e. UX designer) and logged by another team member (e.g. me) via the free, open source, web application Usablog, which then exported logs to CSV for use in a program such as Excel and which we in turn manually fed into a mindmap program such as FreeMind. While this process did work for us, the export and manual copy-paste was rather tedious and laborious, or as she put it “it would directly contribute to user research process efficiencies.” We knew there could be a better way.

Goals of the experiment:

  • Rapidly capture rich user feedback during research interviews and usability tests through logging of user events and comments
  • Organize logs from multiple sessions into one study for ease of access and visibility
  • Use log entries to synthesize findings
  • Quickly jump to a spot in the session’s video by clicking on the associated log entry

To read more on the UsabLog project and end result, visit my blog at

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