Andy Budd
Andy Budd
5th January 2015

As many of you know, we spent a huge chunk of 2014 working on a new version of our hugely popular Silverback usability testing tool for the Mac. We initially hoped to have the project finished by the end of summer, but this turned out to be a little overly optimistic.

Despite Silverback being a relatively simple tool, and OS X coming packed with tonnes of new video libraries, video still isn’t a solved problem. So the first half of the year was spent building the new capture engine, and making sure that video, audio and screen captures synced-up properly — something easier said than done.

Towards the end of the summer, we had a reasonably robust technical build ready to go, so invited a group of people in for a usability study. We chose a mix of experienced Silverback veterans and first timers, set them a series of tasks, and observed how they got on.

It’s actually quite fun designing a usability test to study the behaviour of people running usability tests — all very meta. By the end of the sessions we had a stack of great feedback. On the whole people really liked the new interface, and the new functionality we’d added. Not least the ability to log issues and take notes on your iPhone. However it also became clear that the interface had a number of usability glitches that needed more work.

Some of the usability issues related to the new Yosemite UI, which most of our test subjects had yet to see. For instance the trend for flat button styles left users unsure which elements were clickable. Essentially Yosemite had stripped the affordances away. While these issues will hopefully resolve themselves over time, as people become familiar with Yosemite, we didn’t want to launch a usability testing tool with such basic usability problems. Instead we set about crafting a whole new set of UI components, with the added benefit of giving the app more personality.

Through testing we also realised that the user flow of the new application differed from our users mental models in a few key places, causing them to become lost, confused or frustrated. To combat this we tweaked the interface to make the difference between screens more pronounced, dropping some features and splitting others up into multiple steps.

By late Autumn the new designs were ready and scheduled to take around 4-5 weeks to implement. Unfortunately, unbeknownst to us, our freelance OS X developer had taken on another project so things had to be delayed by a few months. Then, literally the day before we broke up for Christmas we got the crushing news — our developer had decided not to complete the project with just weeks remaining. I can’t tell you how disappointed I was by this turn of events.

So where does that leave the project now?

Well at the moment we’re looking for a reliable developer to help finish this project off. The video engine is built so the work is mostly UI tweaks, testing, and submitting to the app store—probably around two months’ work in total. However it may take us a few months to find a suitable replacement and get them up to speed, so we are working towards a Spring launch.

In order to get there, we are going to need the help of the Silverback community. So if you happen to know a good Mac developer with video knowledge please do put them in touch and we’ll get project moving again as quickly as possible.

Until then, thanks for your patience and we know you’ll be pleased with the final result.