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Silverback brings advanced usability testing to the Mac

Silverback, a new OS X application from the renowned UK-based design team Clearleft, was a mystery for quite a while. The app had a site with some neat visual tricks and a gorilla with a clipboard, and it said the application was for designers, but what did it do? The suspense was killing us! We finally had a chance to test Silverback this week, and if you design websites or application interfaces, this program is worth the wait.

Silverback basically turns your Mac into a full-featured usability testing station. Add a new project, add some users, and have them come sit down and test out your interface. Silverback hangs out unobtrusively in the background, capturing video of the the entire screen, including a cute (and useful) effect that marks where your tester is clicking. This in itself would be handy, but Silverback also takes advantage of your built-in iSight camera to include a picture-in-picture of the tester's reactions, on top of the screen capture.

This way, you can see everything the user is doing in real time, and they can speak comments aloud as they come up, rather than pausing to write them down. Usability testing the old-fashioned way generally involves expensive setups and lots of instructions, but Silverback is intuitive to use and provides straightforward and informative results. Silverback is currently in private beta, so some testers can test its testing functions (this makes our heads hurt a little bit.)

Tags: beta, clearleft, design, isight, os x, OsX, Silverback, ui, video