One of my favorite parts of usability research is the fly-on-the-wall style cognitive walkthrough. You can get as low or high tech as you want with such a test but essentially you have the subject or user attempt to complete a task and ask them to vocalize their thought process. Tests like this usually provide all matter of insights the visual style and usability of the app.
The cognitive walkthrough is a usability evaluation method in which one or more evaluators work through a series of tasks and ask a set of questions from the perspective of the user.
The focus of the cognitive walkthrough is on understanding the system's learnability for new or infrequent users. The cognitive walkthrough was originally designed as a tool to evaluate walk-up-and-use systems like postal kiosks, automated teller machines (ATMs), and interactive exhibits in museums where users would have little or no training. However, the cognitive walkthrough has been employed successfully with more complex systems like CAD software and software development tools to understand the first experience of new users. (Source)
I've been searching for the right format to do app reviews and decide to try and combine cognitive walkthrough style reviews with a popular video genre on YouTube called First Impression videos. Someone films themselves having a first impression to a service, product, art, ect. Kind of like unboxing videos. I decided to try and film myself doing a cognitive walkthrough / first impression / rapid fire critique of an app I had been seeing in the headlines: Tribe. The articles I came across (screen shots in the video) were commenting on the "pivot" the company had made from a Snapchat style private photo sharing service to something that was marketed towards weed smokers.
I'm not sure how well this worked. I found that the most valuable insights came to me after the fact so I ended up adding graphics and text to call those out and clarify on some of the industry lingo I dropped in the video. I should mention that I cite my Mental Notes deck throughout the video. Check it out: