Easy timestamps for user testing notes

It's Monday morning and you're observing your first usability test participant. They're coming out with some killer quotes - all is looking good for the report.

Time stamping notes

Roll forward five days and a further fourteen participants and you'd like to grab the video highlights to share with your client. The test report gold you saw on Monday morning is no more than the scribbled notes you gathered in your favourite text editor (mine's Notational Velocity). Sound familiar?

WordService timestamps

One of the most useful things you can do when taking notes is to timestamp everything you've observed: the time the recording started, the time a usability issue or error was encountered, the time of the test report gold. It's really easy to go back to the recordings if you know what time the video started and the time the notable event took place.

It can be tedious and distracting to enter timestamps manually, so I was delighted when I discovered a tool called WordService by Devon Technologies (sadly, this isn't one for PC users). WordService allows you to set up a keyboard shortcut for creating a date & time stamp. It sits in your Mac's Keyboard System Preferences, so can be used in any application.

You can download the freeware service and installation instructions from here: http://www.devon-technologies.com/download/index.html

Once installed (and rebooted), you can choose which keyboard shortcuts you'd like to enable in the Keyboard System Preferences. You can then change the keystroke to something more memorable by double clicking the current entry.
Mac Keyboard System Preferences

There are loads of other useful things that you can do with WordService:

  • Switch to/from ALL CAPS
  • Word count statistics
  • My favourite (which I've not found a use for yet): rotate all highlighted characters through 13 positions in the alphabet (abg fher ubj hfrshy gung vf gubhtu?)

I hope you find WordService useful. I'd love to hear what free apps you like.

Neil is a Senior UX Consultant with a passion for collaborative design. Once the post-its have been put away you’ll find him at the nearest rock climbing crag.