Introduction and Motivation
As the name suggests, Thinking Aloud means that you think aloud instead of quietly for yourself. You vocalize and record your thoughts loudly as they come to your mind. The point of Thinking Aloud Tests is to catch your spontaneous and intuitive impressions of one of our clients' products for the first time – without being familiar with it. Whether a potential customer stays on a website or keeps using a mobile app depends on their first impression of the product and its usability in general, so enhancing this experience can ultimately lead to higher sales or retention of existing customers.
In Thinking Aloud Tests, testers are asked to submit one or more Thinking Aloud videos showing how they explore a website, app, or workflow, or try to accomplish a given task. They usually include vocal feedback about the tester's approach, initial impression, expectations, opinion, and suggestions.
Thinking Aloud Tests are special, higher-paying, but currently rare usability tasks that we invite our best testers to.
Check out the following example by our tester Peggy who evaluated one of our own web pages. This is just an example of how you can do it – Everyone has different approaches, ideas, things that get their attention, and that's what makes Thinking Aloud videos by different people so interesting!
How you record a Thinking Aloud video and which tools you use depends on the given task and the system that you are supposed to use.
Reviewing a website using a computer
If you are supposed to review a website using a computer, you only need any screencast software like Screencast-O-Matic, QuickTime Player, or Snagit (Download), to record the contents of your screen. You also need a microphone or a headset that is connected to your computer.
Reviewing a mobile website/app using a mobile device
To review a website or app on your mobile device, there are two options, and the test instructions or the TL in your test will inform you, which one to pursue:
Filming your screen with a second device: Using a second device – usually also a smartphone or tablet –, you record a regular video and film the screen of your mobile device that shows the mobile website or app.
Reviewing a physical product
For the review of a physical product, which is usually shipped to you, you need to use a second device and film your interactions with this product.
If you need to use screencast software, change certain settings to set up your recording device (see Preparation Tips). Finally, start the recording and proceed with the Thinking Aloud task. Once you completed this task, you stop the recording, post-process the video if necessary, upload the file to your usability report or to a separate location (specified in the test instructions), and you are done!
While we and our customers appreciate and value honesty, your feedback must be constructive at all times and never degrading in any way. Stay professional at all times and prevent emotionally charged feedback as well as exaggerations.
What kind of feedback should you give in a Thinking Aloud video?
If you are asked to evaluate the usability of a customer's product or some particular part of it, talk about your first impression after experiencing the product for the first time. While doing so, think about different aspects, e.g. structure, choice of colors, shape, and content. Share positive as well as negative feedback!
What are your expectations, e.g. what should happen when you click on some button, and are these expectations met when you actually click on it? What was solved well and why? What was not solved well and how can it be done better in your opinion? Make practical suggestions!
Always articulate “why”. Never just say something is good or bad.
These are our requirements for Thinking Aloud videos:
All basic requirements for regular attachments: MP4 file type, current date, etc.
All relevant details must be clearly visible and text must be readable on your video.
Your voice must be loud enough and you must be easy to understand on Thinking Aloud videos.
The recording environment must be quiet. No traffic, music, TV, conversation, crying baby in the background, etc.
Hold the recording device as still as possible.
Only watch other testers' videos after you recorded your own. Share your unbiased feedback in your Thinking Aloud video.
Before you start recording your Thinking Aloud video, we recommend following these preparation tips, otherwise, you may need to redo your recording unnecessarily:
Move to a room where you are by yourself. Close all windows and doors, turn off any radios and TVs, and put all devices in silent mode.
Clean your environment and remove distracting items such as personal belongings. An empty table is a good recording environment.
Set up the lighting in your room to avoid camera blinding and glare.
On your recording device: Make sure you activated/deactivated sound recording (depending on the task)
On your recording device: Choose a video resolution that shows all details but produces small files at the same time, e.g. 720p.
Make a test recording and check the result. Adjust conditions and settings before shooting your final video.
Your recording device should be positioned away from light sources, such as the sun, lamps, etc., otherwise, they will blind the camera.
Natural sunlight produces good lighting conditions. If you record at night, turn on enough lights to light up the room. Low lighting conditions can lead to repeated refocusing of the camera during your recording.
If you want to record a screen in your Thinking Aloud video, make sure the screen does not reflect any light sources directly into the camera, otherwise, the light source will be visible on your recording and will cause glare.
The following tips can help you produce a high-quality Thinking Aloud video and save time to complete the task:
Concentrate, speak clearly, and express yourself deliberately.
At the beginning of your video, briefly introduce the viewer to the task.
If you are asked to answer questions and record your answers, reading the question before your answer helps viewers.
Making pauses is fine. You don't have to constantly talk and may have to think for a moment before you say something.
If your recording contains irrelevant parts at the beginning or at the end, you can cut these parts easily to produce concise recordings.
If you made a major mistake while recording, you can cut out this part in the middle of your final recording. This is easier and consumes much less time compared to redoing the recording.
Don't redo your recording over and over again because of your high expectations.
When you use a recording device, e.g. a smartphone, to record your Thinking Aloud video, holding it in one of your hands and keeping it still while showing something with your other hand can be difficult. If you have trouble holding the camera still, we recommend buying a simple tripod stand, which will keep your recording device in a fixed position. Alternatively, you can stack some objects on your table and place your camera on it to build a temporary stand.
However, if you are using a mobile device to record your video and you decide to hold it instead, make sure to use the most recent device you can get because its camera will likely have image stabilization.
You may have to edit your recorded file before you can upload it. You may have to perform the following tasks:
Change the file format to MP4 if your video file has a different file type.
Compress the file if your resulting video file is larger than 25 MB (e.g. lower video resolution, fps), otherwise uploading it to your usability report will fail.
Cut the video if necessary.
Adjust the audio track in rare cases. Some recording tools save your recorded audio as a second audio track that is not in position 1, so when you play the file, you cannot hear any audio. In that case, manually change the audio track order (check the following YouTube video for more information).
You can use any tool to perform these tasks. We recommend using the program HandBrake, which is available for all desktop systems. Check out the following video to learn how to adjust the file format, audio track, and how to start the encoding of your file: YouTube video