Mr Tappy during contextual research with a participant with diverse needs in a home setting.

Mr Tappy: review of a mobile device usability test recording sled

Mr Tappy is a highly extensible recording sled for mobile devices that can be used to capture your users as they interact naturally with devices, sites, software and the world.

Review verdict (updated 2019)

Mr Tappy (2018) is significantly more usable than the original (2012) version. Mr Tappy remains the best multipurpose sled for filming usability testing, UX and human behaviour research that I've found.

Indeed, I have submitted a request to upgrade my team to the new version. However, there are some things to consider if you want to get the best results from Mr Tappy.

Contents

  1. Where Mr Tappy excels
  2. Things to consider
  3. Should you upgrade?
  4. Mr Tappy alternatives
  5. Mr Tappy reviews elsewhere
  6. Disclaimer

Where Mr Tappy excels

Listed by relative importance to me…

  • Works out-of-the-box — now includes camera/software, foolproof to set-up.
  • Magnetic base — magnetic shims replace velcro for quick/clean/easy device anchoring.
  • Camera mount — enables greater positioning control and choice of cameras.
  • Cable management — clips replace zip-ties for wired camera cable management.
  • Weight savings — Mr Tappy now has smaller nuts (!) and a smaller (universal) base.
  • Box case — easier to use than the drawstring bag original (but see considerations).
  • Device agnostic — works with any device, is future proof.
  • Modular design — enables highly flexible testing configurations and scenarios.
  • No tool assembly — caveat: the 2018 camera gimble is Allen/hex key adjustable.
  • Portable — very easy to transport once collapsed.
  • Low vibration — stiff frame reduces flex and blur in video feed.
  • Durable — my original Mr Tappy is 6 years old, fully functional and appears 'as new'.
  • Professional aesthetic — looks the business, not like a hack.
  • 'Borrowability' — mine is frequently borrowed by other teams.
  • Customer service — my early edition Mr Tappy developed a fault with its hinges. Nick from Mr Tappy quickly replaced the jig with his newer, lighter, weight design incredibly quickly and was a pleasure to work with.

Things to consider

Listed by relative importance to me…

  • Webcam instability — needs repeated persausion to play-nice with some Mac's.
  • Camera mount — easy to knock alignment/cable can tug camera out of alignment.
  • Box case — cardboard unlikely to be durable over years, hard to close and keep closed.
  • Small parts — like shims, Allen/hex key, spare clips, are likely losable over time (although replacements can be ordered).
  • Cost — $349 (US) can seem expensive for small teams / those with limited budget.
  • Delivery time — ~6 day lead time ((free) shipping from NZ, not the UK, nor EU).
  • Hinge adjustments — can need to re-tighten, tune the hinge joints during a session.
  • Weight, Balance — rewards use of a small camera; a possible additional expense.
  • Not wireless — for cable free, portable, and natural use cases you'll need a new camera.

Should you upgrade?

If your early Mr Tappy is well working for you, then probably not. However, if you're mostly working with participant devices (vs. your own) then the magentic mounting is very handy/efficient. Mr Tappy also offers a $100 (US) discount for pre-2016 customers as part of an upgrade plan.

Myself? I've submitted a purchase request for my team to buy the latest version of Mr Tappy. Partly for the magentic mounting, but also to replace the camera which I use. I envision using my original Mr Tappy as a spare sled, or for use as a secondary picture-in-picture camera stand.

Mr Tappy alternatives

A fun alternative is to make your own usability testing camera mount system which can be cheap and fun, but definitely has limitations.

Mr Tappy reviews elsewhere

Disclaimer

Nick Bowmast (Userpalooza, Mr Tappy) asked me to review the latest (2018) version of Mr Tappy so that I could update my 2014 review. I was sent a new Mr Tappy for review, which has now been returned to New Zealand. I was not paid for this review.

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