If you build software or web applications, sooner or later you need to ask what actual users think of your software. Silverback is a new OS X package designed to make this process simple and easy. Set it up on a Mac with a cam (the built-in iSight on a MacBook works fine), and launch a new session. The software sits quietly in the background, recording video, audio, and the contents of the screen. When you’re done, it exports everything to one integrated QuickTime movie, complete with highlights showing mouse clicks. This lets you see what the user did with the software, as well as how they looked and what they said.
To get useful results, you’ll still need to have some idea of how to conduct a usability test – there are pitfalls for those who don’t have a good idea of how to get unbiased results from test subjects. But Silverback does make it much, much easier to record and share test results. It’s free to try for 30 days, and then $49.95 to register.