Capturing facial expressions while conducting mobile design research using Zoom

Picture in picture image of mobile screen and participant

Using Zoom to capture facial expressions with mobile design research

I wanted to share with you a simple but effective way of working we had adopted since the pandemic. It concerns how to see the face of the participant when conducting mobile research using Zoom. In fact, it is broader than that because I think it is a better method that even using dedicated UX research tools.

There are a few dedicated tools around that are built purely for conducting design research. Lookback is one of these and we used it before the pandemic but had a few challenges getting participants into sessions. Lookback had the advantage that it took over the participants screen and camera and showed both in their desktop interface.

Besides the difficulty getting users into a session, there was also the problem that users don’t always hold their phone at an angle where the camera is pointing at their face. What this can mean is that although we can see their screen very clearly, we can’t always see their face and sometimes get just a forehead or chin. Not ideal!

Driven by a desire to get participants into sessions more easily we switched over to Zoom for running remote research. There are some great features in Zoom which I have written about here and that I won’t go into again. However, one of the drawbacks is that when a participants shares their screen on a mobile device, Zoom doesn’t show the participants camera so you can’t see them.

What we have done to get round this is very simple. For mobile research we now do the following:

  • ask participants to join on their laptop/PC with camera and audio on.
  • ask them to ALSO join with their mobile device WITHOUT audio or camera and then share their screen.

The result is we can talk to them on their laptop/PC and see their entire face and often upper torso whilst at the same time we can see their mobile screen. It also has the added advantage that we can help them with any mobile issues because we can see if they are struggling as we are already connected on PC/Laptop.

I hope that helps you do better mobile research and if you have any tips you’d like to share please get in touch.

If you would like to know more about how we run design research of mobile products why not get in touch on +44(0)800 0246247 or email us at

Related Posts