Remote Research at your Service

March 20, 2020 3:54 pm

Remote Research at your Service



As COVID-19 takes hold, our daily lives are changing by the hour. Whilst there is a lot of uncertainty right now, we would like to provide some certainty and clarity on how we intend, like many other companies, to ensure the economy keeps ticking and operate the business as usual. Like many other research companies, we have responded confidently to a change in strategy. In the interest of our participants health, and the general health of the public, face to face research would be an irresponsible option at present. Fortunately, our wealth of experience and expertise in remote research leaves us in an excellent position to switch the majority of our projects to function remotely. Our experience in remote research means that we’re still able deliver insightful, complex user research remotely, with ease.      

What is remote research?

Remote testing is usually conducted over a computer, phone or tablet – whereby users are able to share their screens with the moderator at any point during the session. Users are able to receive the tasks over a messaging service in built into the program used in the test. Remote moderated testing is a great technique for accessing hard to reach users, who might not be able to attend the lab in person due to time restraints or other difficulties. Additionally, this technique is an exciting way for researchers to gain insight from users around the globe.

Why use remote moderated testing?

Participant recruitment

Recruiting participants for remote research is, in some circumstances, easier than recruiting users for face to face research. Users are able to join the session from wherever they are around the globe. Instead of recruiting users from a specific area in the country, it’s possible to widen your recruitment pool and access those hard to reach profiles to ensure you accurately represent your user base and gain a global perspective.

Additionally, some users, particularly for B2B projects, are difficult to reach for face-to-face testing because of time, work, travel, and geographical restraints. Remote research allows us to access these users at their own convenience, at work or home.

Another major benefit is the ability to conduct accessibility research with hard to reach users. Many users with access needs are often unable to travel to a lab for the research. Remote accessibility testing ensures that people who are excluded because of travel, are not left behind.

Running the session: Sharing Stimuli and facilitating interaction

Whether it’s necessary to share stimuli, test prototypes or run interactive activities such as journey mapping, the use of various conference software and tools makes all of this possible. Integrated chat functionality allows our moderators to share tasks, links and activities, and participants can share their screens, whether it be on a mobile, tablet, or desktop. Using the CTA (cognitive think aloud) methodology the moderator can encourage users to verbalise their thoughts, feelings and barriers as they go – capturing interaction with UI and key behaviours and attitudes.

Example: Customer journey map

There’s also no need to worry about the rapport between the user and moderator. The use of a webcam means that visual interaction is not lost whilst being in the comfort of their own home ensures users are in a comfortable and familiar setting. With the help of some brilliant tools, it’s still possible to encourage active engagement with activities such as card sorts and journey maps, allowing the user to take ownership and feel empowered during the session.

Viewing research

Although live viewing is not always available when remote sessions are being conducted. We’ve been working on means to ensure that videos and recordings are made accessible just hours after the sessions are complete. Insight can begin to be shared with teams across the world to allow key discussions and inform future sessions.

Insight and Results

Although running research may mean we’re unable to observe natural interaction with stimuli in person, by adjusting our methodologies and encouraging users to think aloud, we can still run the same tasks and gather the same insight around usability and experience. This ensures you’re still always receiving that rich level of insight to inform any design decisions.

In fact, we often find we can gather richer insight when people are in their own homes, as feeling more relaxed in their natural environment promotes more natural behaviour. Being in their usual setting also provides easy access to any inspiration and resources they may use to complete tasks in their natural setting. This is something we’ve been lucky to observe during a research project this week, as we’ve been encouraging users to walk around their house and show us (rather than tell us) about anything that might influence their decision making.

Importantly, a switch to a remote methodology should not have any impact on the timescales of the project and delivery of insight. Using a ‘ghost’ moderator who is signed into the call observing the research unfold first-hand, allows live notes to be taken and analysis to begin immediately once the session is complete. They can begin building themes throughout the research period and ensure those insights are as timely and rich as the in-lab equivalent.

Collaboration and Workshops

Whether you’re looking to do a standalone workshop or need a session as part of a research project to ideate ideas or present solutions, the shift towards remote working in recent years means it’s easier than ever to facilitate the same collaborative sessions.

Use of conferencing tools with webchats and virtual whiteboards encourage engagement from all attendees whether this be ideating user segments, journey maps or design solutions. The ability to record the sessions also means those unable to join can watch it later, and researchers and designers can also review it at any point to inform any future research or UX work.

Wrap up

We are rising to the current challenges and are ready to ensure all your UX and research needs are in hand during this period of uncertainty. The current climate promotes a real time of behavioural change across all sectors, so it’s more important than ever you don’t halt your research and continue to understand how you can accommodate your customers’ needs. If you think any of our remote services could be suitable for you, get in touch with us at info@simpleusability.com.