Chalkmark: a simple app for testing page mock-ups on real users

Chalkmark aims to address the “challenge of user testing when there is minimal budget or time” – a worthy goal heading into cash strapped 2009. It’s made by Optimal Usability, a New Zealand based company who also make OptimalSort. Chalkmark is currently free and in still Beta, though the site blurb implies that it will be a freemium service once it takes off.

How does Chalkmark work?

  • You upload a series of still images as the stimulus for your study.
  • These can be scanned paper prototypes, wireframes, or anything else you can convert into a still image.
  • For each one, you are able to ask a question, of the form “Where would you click to do X?”.
  • When the user clicks on their desired location, the coordinates of the click are saved, and the next question/image pair is loaded.
  • The test is given a URL which you can distribute any way you please for recruitment purposes (it would probably work quite well in tandem with Ethnio).
  • The output is a heatmap for each question, showing where the users clicked.

Chalkmark’s current limitations:

  • It seems to be still in Beta (I’ve experienced a few bugs, but I’m sure they’ll be ironed out soon).
  • There’s no way of screening, profiling or segmenting you participants.
  • You can’t add any other kinds of questions (there’s no comment or questionnaire component).
  • You’re limited to still images, with one question per image. You can’t add branching logic, so interactive prototypes aren’t possible.

This clearly isn’t a one-size-fits-all research tool, but does look like a clean, lean and well designed web app that I’m sure would be very helpful in certain situations. Also coming soon from Optimal Usability is TreeJack, a reverse cardsorting tool that helps you validate large IAs by giving tasks to real end users. I have to admit, though, personally I’m holding out for Webnographer from Fera Labs to be launched so I can start doing some full fat remote usability testing in the new year.