Announcing Open Virtual Usability Lab (VULab) alpha

Ron Owston ROwston at
Tue Jan 6 17:48:24 UTC 2009

Hi Nate,
By all means you can share the announcement widely. Yes, it's a general
remote usability testing tool that can be used for any website. In fact,
it can be used to record any kind of desktop activity, web-based or not.
Unlike Morae and others, nothing has to be installed on the remote user's
computer which greatly simplifies the process. It's important to realize
that it doesn't do any analysis for you. You end up with pre- and post
session survey answers and video/audio recordings of users. Then it is up
to you as the researcher to interpret them. Also I emphasize that it is an
alpha version, but we have two full time developers working on improving
Best, Ron
Ron Owston, PhD
Director, Institute for Research on Learning Technologies
and University Professor of Education
York University, TEL 1029
4700 Keele St., Toronto, ON Canada M3J 1P3
Phone 416-736-5019; email ROWSTON at EDU.YORKU.CA
Personal website
IRLT website

Nate Angell <nate.angell at> on Tuesday, January 06, 2009 at 12:00
PM -0500 wrote:
>Ron, thanks for the announcement and your work on the VULab. It sounds
>like it can become a valuable resource.
>I'm wondering if the VULab is a resource that can be used by other open
>source communities that may be related to Fluid. I'm thinking
>specifically of Drupal ([ ] and
>OpenID ([ ] communities, that I have
>been encouraging to contribute to and benefit from Fluid's work.
>Would it be OK to share your "alpha" announcement more widely?
>On Jan 5, 2009, at 5:26 PM, Ron Owston wrote:
>I am pleased to announce that we now have an end-to-end working alpha
>version of VULab at [ ]
>You can create your own login as a "researcher" and then create a login
>for a "tester". Then login as the researcher and create a new "project."
>A project consists of a pre- and a post-session survey and the url that
>you want a "tester" to visit. At the end of project creation you assign
>the tester to the project and activate the project. Then login again as a
>researcher and view your tester's video and survey responses.
>I have prepared a 3-part video explaining the steps in conducting a study
>with VULab at [
>] . I urge you to view the video before
>attempting to use the tool, especially video Part 1 that explains how to
>create a survey which at this point is still somewhat idiosyncratic.
>For those of you unfamiliar with the application, VULab is designed for
>remote usability testing. VULab records, on its server, remote users’
>interactions with a web site. The application also has a built in survey
>tool that allows researchers to ask users questions at the beginning and
>end of their usability testing session. The data collected on the VULab
>server then can be analyzed by the researcher to identify usability
>issues with the website. A unique feature of the application is that it
>does not require remote users to install the software application on
>their computer as they only need to download a small Java applet at the
>time of the session. All recording is done on the server.
>Known issues with VULab:
>1. the captured video plays back too quickly. I suggest using a video
>player that allows you to reduce the playback speed eg. with VLC hit the
>minus key several times (and turn off the sound beforehand).
>2. audio and video aren't synching properly yet.
>3. work still needs to be done on the layout and css of the web interface.
>4. exporting of survey data not yet implemented.
>5. uploading of screen snapshots is fairly slow--it takes at least as
>long to upload as the length of the user's visit to the website being
>tested. The user can't take the post-session survey until the upload is
>You can report back any issues to this list, but Colin is creating the
>list [ mailto:vulab-users at
>]vulab-users at which will take most of the traffic related
>to end user experiences. This will be announced shortly.
>And finally, Happy 2009, to all members of the Fluid community and thanks
>for the support you've given our project over the past year!
>Ron Owston
>fluid-work mailing list - [ mailto:fluid-work at
>]fluid-work at
>To unsubscribe, change settings or access archives,
>see [

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