Four quick tips for keeping participants engaged during mobile usability tests.

One great feature a user research tool should have is the ability to test on mobile devices using a multitude of different tools and methodologies. When designing studies, however, we should take into account that the experience for participants on mobile devices are very different to when they are completing a study on a desktop or laptop.

With this in mind, here are some tips to help you ensure you are delivering a great PX (Participant Experience) to participants taking a study on mobile devices, ultimately leading to better insights and even greater mobile UX.

1. Build it lean, keep ‘em keen

Typically we advise that mobile usability testing takes no longer than 10 minutes to complete, with 15 minutes being an absolute maximum. Beyond 15 minutes we would expect to see a sharp drop-off rate as participant engagement declines. The exception to the 15 minutes max rule would be studies where a fairly generous incentive has been arranged, with participants being pre-warned of the study length.

Enabling the progress bar within the software you use can be a good way to keep participants informed of how close they are to completing a test. Be warned however: if your study is too lengthy then the progress bar can actually work against you.

2. Keep descriptions succinct

It is best to keep text instructions, such as welcome pages or task descriptions, succinct so as they fit on a single screen wherever possible. This can be a little challenging for studies conducted on mobile phones due to the lack of screen real estate compared to a desktop or laptop.

On both desktop and mobile, participants can often miss out on key information if they are required to scroll down to read text. It is therefore important to keep these messages concise so that they do not miss out on anything which may affect their performance or engagement in the study.

3. Use open comment questions sparingly

Writing full sentences is considerably more difficult on a mobile phone. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to consider other options – for example, if you are aware of a majority of the complaints that users have about a website you are testing, you could present a list of multiple choice options for them to provide feedback with a catch-all, open-ended “other” option included. This also has the bonus of being easier to analyze than an open comments question, albeit at the expense of participants being less free to express themselves.

Or how about using a usability testing software with a video question feature? This could provide the same qualitative insights as an open comments box, but without the hassle of participants having to type mini-essays about their experience.

It may be that open comments are the best way of capturing the information that you are looking for, but make sure you have explored other options first. And it is advisable not to give them more than 2 or 3 open comment questions in a mobile study – anything more and you might start seeing a reduction in quality of responses.

4. Give participants a heads up if they need to download the app

Mobile task-based studies might require participants to download and install the Software’s app upon entering a study. While this app has no function outside of running studies, and can be deleted by the participant once finished, it is nevertheless helpful to let participants know up front about it before they enter the study. A brief paragraph explaining the function of the app and reassuring them that it will not collect any personal data will go a long way towards easing any uncertainty they may have about downloading it.


Remote unmoderated studies on mobile devices present a different challenge to traditional desktop studies when it comes to keeping participants engaged. By taking a few simple measures we can ensure a great PX, which not only helps your research, but also helps maintain a good relationship with your customer base or panel provider.