Adobe Shadow Device Mirroring

Adobe Shadow on an iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro
Adobe Shadow on an iPad, iPhone, and MacBook Pro

I recently started using a new tool for testing website designs across different mobile device screens without the hassle of having to refresh each browser I’m using.

Adobe Shadow is a free tool from Adobe that allows you to mirror your desktop Mac or Windows computer to multiple mobile devices. You can pair your desktop to iOS and Android devices, including the Kindle Fire. Shadow can connect to an unlimited number of mobile devices.

Adobe Shadow works by running an application on your desktop computer and using a Chrome browser extension to connect the desktop browser with your mobile devices. Your desktop computer and mobile devices have to be on the same network. The device synching worked fine on my home Wi-Fi network but I encountered problems with my wireless network at work due to corporate security settings that block certain ports.

Once the computer is paired with your mobile devices, the mobile displays are updated in near real-time as you browse on the desktop computer. This makes it easy to test things like media queries or any conditional logic that is using the user-agent string to tailor the layout for that device. This is done by sending a command to the mobile device that contains the URL of the page being viewed on the desktop.

Shadow also allows you to do remote inspection and editing of the HTML or CSS and immediately displays the results on all your mobile devices.

There is a video demonstration of Shadow on the Adobe Labs website.

Axure for Mobile Prototyping

I recently developed a small prototype for usability testing of some new mobile website functionality using Axure RP Version 6. Here are a few things I learned:

  • If possible, use Axure RP Version 6. It has mobile settings under the Generate Prototype menu that will save you from having to manually add to each page the HTML viewport meta tag every time you generate a new prototype. Screen shots of the settings panel are at the bottom of this post.
  • Generate separate viewport tags for iOS and Android browsers like below:
    1. iPhone: <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=2.0, user-scalable=yes"/>
    2. Android: <meta name="viewport" content="width=480, target-densityDpi=device-dpi"/>
  • For iPhone, you can design your prototype at 320 pixels wide for older devices. iPhone 4 will scale it up to 640 pixels wide so the prototype has the same appearance no matter what version of the iPhone your participant is using.
  • For Android smartphones, design the prototype at 480 pixels wide. Tablets are another story and my testing did not include them.
  • To create accordion effects on interface widgets, a common design pattern on mobile websites, you can use Dynamic Panels and Axure’s OnShow event with the Move action. See the advanced dynamic panel tutorial on Axure’s website.
  • If you are opening the prototype on an iPhone from a home screen icon and want to hide the URL bar, use this meta tag:  <meta name="apple-mobile-web-app-capable" content="yes"/>
  • Test on as many target Android devices as you can. The Android viewport tag worked on most devices I tested, but not all. The differences in Android pixel density and screen resolution necessitate more testing than is needed with Mobile Safari on the iPhone.
  • Keep in mind you are building a prototype. It doesn’t need to work perfectly on all devices if you can just ask the test participant to zoom in during the session if needed. You should be explaining that they are interacting with a prototype as part of the test script so this should not be a problem.

For more on the iOS viewport, see Apple’s iOS Developer Library.

For more on targeting different screens size on Android, see the Android Developers Site.

Axure Settings for iPhone
Axure Settings for iPhone

Axure Settings for Android
Axure Settings for Android

Drop Shadows for Menus in iRise

Sometimes you just want your menus to have a drop shadow. So in an effort to push the fidelity of an iRise simulation to a higher level, I recently created a simple menu Master that uses sections to display the kind of drop shadow you’d normally handle with CSS3. It was a little more labor intensive than CSS, but fairly easy to do once the menu bar was laid out.

To make the menus as easy to maintain as possible, the drop shadows are applied in the Master and the shadow color is handled in the Style Manager. Mouse events are used to toggle the drop shadow sections on and off with their associated menus. The screen capture below shows everything you need to know to mimic the effect of CSS3 drop shadows. And if you wanted an even richer display using rounded corners and a gradient drop shadow (like Mac OS X) , a transparent PNG could be used.

Creating Menu Drop Shadows in iRise Studio for Mac
Creating Menu Drop Shadows in iRise Studio for Mac

iRise for Mac Alpha Testing

I recently started testing iRise’s Studio for Mac alpha release.

For the most part the interface is consistent with the Windows version. I was able to create projects in both Mac version 8.7 and Windows version 8.6 and open and modify them in each other. The Mac version has support for iBlocs, although the interactions for setting widget properties was a little wonky and unintuitive at first (at least for the iframe iBloc I tested). Datasheets, masters, and other functionality was working as expected.

The biggest bug I encountered was hidden fields not passing values in both Safari 5.0.5 and Firefox 4.0. This is a major bug for me because I frequently use hidden fields to pull datasheet values on to a page without displaying them and then pass them through to other pages on link or button clicks to maintain state within a simulation. Hopefully this one gets fixed soon. The other major functionality missing is no connectivity to the Definition Center, iRise’s central repository for shared projects. This is completely understandable as I imagine the development team is focused on getting Studio stable before tackling Definition Center.

All in all, I’m impressed with the alpha so far and am glad to see iRise finally adding support for the Mac.

iRise For Mac
iRise For Mac

Tobii and Lenovo Experiment With Eye-Controlled Laptop

Eye tracking equipment maker Tobii recently demonstrated an experimental laptop designed in collaboration with Lenovo that uses a person’s eye movements to interact with the computer’s user interface.

The interactions involve combining mouse clicks or keystrokes with eye movements to provide an enhanced user experience. The eye tracking dimension of the demonstration shows that eye movement would be used to complement, not replace, keyboard and track pad input from the user’s hands. Anders Olsson of Tobii demonstrates in the video below the modified Windows 7 user experience.

See Tobii’s press release for more details.

SUS Calculator

I recently used the System Usability Scale on a graduate school project and wanted an easy tool for calculating scores. Since I hate doing manually anything that will be done repeatedly, I took the time to create a simple SUS calculator in Excel.

The spreadsheet is available for download from Google Docs.

For more on the SUS itself and how it is calculated, take a look at this article on Wikipedia.

Axure: Mac to Windows and Back

I’ve recently been testing how well Axure RP handles project files that are moving back and forth between Mac and Windows.

The initial results have been pretty exciting. All the interactions and conditional layers added on one platform are preserved when editing the project file on the other platform.

Since Axure released version 5.6 for Mac in April this popular prototyping tool can now be used by teams that are split between Mac and Windows users — perfect for a team in which the visual designers use Macs while the UX folks and developers use Windows. Shared projects can be accessed by both platforms for file versioning and page check-in/check-out.

Below are screen grabs from Mac OS X 10.5 and Windows 7. These are from the Movable Web reference project I’m building that will attempt to implement as many of Axure’s features as possible on a fictitious website/blog focused on mobile applications. More on that later this summer.

Axure’s license is user based and allows two installs, which is how I use it on Mac and Windows 7. And the license includes a 30-day free trial so you can test drive it before committing to a purchase. If you are a student with at least a 3.0 GPA you can get a free license through Axure’s Good Student Program and UPA members also can get a discount.

Axure RP 5.6 for Mac
Axure RP 5.6 for Mac
Axure RP 5.6 for Windows
Axure RP 5.6 for Windows