Usability tools.....when you can't use usability tools


Confused? Me too. So, many of you know that I work in a classified environment. I’m finally starting to make a little (very little) progress and selling management on the value of good UX design processes. But I might have painted myself into a little bit of a corner. Many programs that would really help us out here such as heat mapping, mouse tracking, etc. seem to be web based. Are there any that I might be able to install that won’t require any type of web connection? Currently, all I have to work with is Balsamiq and Camtasia Studio.


Huh, interesting conundrum! I’ll send some eyes the way of this post.


Hi Max

Are you able to share a little bit about what you’re trying to achieve, without getting too close to that line your employer has set you?

Heat maps and mouse tracking are interesting, but not necessarily the most reliable way to analyse usability issues. Given you have Balsamiq and Camtasia, I’m guessing you’ve run some usability tests on interactive prototypes? Running a handful of them should have given you a collection of rich, qualitative data that should help you understand where the big hurdles are, and identify a few patterns to a) help you prioritise what you should focus on, but more importantly b) help you understand [I]why[/I] certain features, navigation paths, or ways of doing things are important to your users. This “why” is far more important than any numbers that a simulated heat map might give you (if it’s web-based, then it’s only simulated—accurate eye-tracking usually requires expensive gear to do properly, and in my opinion is overkill in most cases).

Quantitative data might feel more convincing, because numbers are black and white. But they require additional insights to gain understanding. You can only get that understanding from observing people use your product, and by asking them questions. And you don’t need fancy tools to do that.

Hope that helps.



I agree with Matt. It really depends on what problems you are solving for and what questions you want answered. Heat maps and mouse tracking will give you insight into what’s happening but not answer “why”.