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#sideproject: 3D-Print Your Own Mobile Usability Testing Sled

Bresslergroup’s designers and researchers frequently need to test the usability of mobile apps during the design process.

Testing mobile apps requires a tool, commonly called a “sled,” to capture usability testing and human-factors research. The sled needs to be lightweight and unobtrusive to enable natural simulation of handheld mobile phone usage , but it also needs to sit sturdily — no slipping or wiggling — on a table.

Usability testing sleds have mounted cameras that record the user’s hand movements as they navigate the app on a mobile device, providing a bird’s eye view. Bresslergroup owned a sled but it was falling apart, and none of the new ones met all our requirements, so Creative Director, Interaction Design, Bill Horan, and Mechanical Engineer, Bre Stachowski, put their heads together to design and build a new one.

Seeing a Hue camera on a coworker’s desk gave them the idea — wouldn’t its gooseneck arm work better on a mobile sled than the angular arm on our falling-apart rig? They ordered the lamp, scrapped its base, and came up with a new design with an H-shaped base that provides stability on a tabletop and can also be cradled in your hand. The form props up the mobile device at a five-degree angle for ease of use, and it’s designed to support a range of grips and input types.

Bill and Bre figured others might have the same need so they came to us to develop an easy DIY 3D-printable version and tutorial to make your own mobile UX research sled at home (or wherever you can access a 3D printer). It’s composed of two 3D-printable parts (find links to download CAD files, below) and an Amazon shopping list that costs around $80 to $85, depending on what type of phone case you buy.

Below is a video tutorial to walk you through the 8 easy steps, and beneath it are lists of tools you probably already own, plus links to materials you’ll need to buy:

Here’s what you’ll need:

From Home:

  • 3D printer
  • Philips Head Screwdriver
  • CAD files: Download in one of two formats: STL or Step.
  • Wire Cutters or Pliers (optional)
  • Small File or Sandpaper (optional)

To Purchase:

Step by Step (as shown in the video):

Step 1: 3D print your sled.

Step 2: Remove excess material. (This is where we used the wire cutters and small file.)

Step 3: Insert USB cable.

Step 4: Screw pieces together.

Step 5: Apply rubber feet.

Step 6: Apply velcro and attach phone case.

Step 7: Attach camera.

Step 8: Use!

Step 9 (optional): If you make one of our sleds, please take a picture and tag us on social media – we’d love to see these being made and used in the wild!

Mechanical engineering interns, Carolyn Normile and Ilana Teicher, are studying engineering at the University of Pittsburgh and University of Pennsylvania.

Find out more about our User Research expertise.