What are remote UX research methods?
This services page is different to the others in this section because remote UX research methodologies are no different from non-remote methods. They are simply carried out using technology of some sort as a substitute for the face-to-face element. Most methodologies lend themselves to being conducted remotely but there are some considerations which we have covered below.
When and where to consider using remote UX Research
There are a number of circumstances where using remote UX research methodologies is preferable to face-to-face as follows:
- When the research requires insight generated from participants with wide geographic separation
- Where budget won’t allow for travel expenses
- Where no one will be viewing in a lab set up
- When the participant doesn’t need to be present in person due to the nature of the session
- When there are restrictions such as with social distancing as currently, with the Coronavirus Corvid-19
There is one methodology that is not ideal for remote and that is contextual research. Contextual research needs to be conducted within a users context – i.e. home or work. Remote technologies can facilitate aspects of contextual research, but not all and therefore a remote approach should not be used.
How we use technology in Remote UX Research
The role of technology when conducting remote research is to facilitate the interaction between moderator and participant. It also provides the client stakeholders the opportunity to observe the research sessions and interact with the moderator between sessions. Depending on the requirement, we employ different tools either individually or in tandem as described below.
Stakeholder interviews – discovery research sessions can often take 90-120 minutes and may involve activities and in some cases, interaction, perhaps with the participant demonstrating something they already use. For most requirements, we are able to utilize video conferencing technology such as Zoom to conduct this type of UX research remotely. Besides the obvious capability to see the participant and have an online face-to-face interview, Zoom also allows the sharing of a screen. Control can be given to the participant and exercises can be run as if we were sat across a table.
Interviews requiring mobile interaction – generative and evaluative UX research (and sometimes even discovery research) often requires interaction with a mobile device. This is a more challenging scenario than can be handled by video-conferencing software. Ideally we wish to be able to see the participant and the screen they are using. This isn’t always easy or even possible when the participant joins the session on a smartphone. To address this challenge we use a specialist tool, such as Lookback.
Lookback allows the moderator to run the UX research session from a desktop device, giving them full large screen viewing. This is the same for the client stakeholder. The participant can join on their smartphone and Lookback captures the picture from the device camera and the screen and presents them side-by-side, as shown here:
Using this type of technology allows us to conduct a session in real-time, with multiple people viewing. Prototype links can be shared with the participant and we can see and hear everything they do.
Card sorting – Taxonomy projects often involve a quant card sort followed by a qual card sort. The qual card sort is used to validate the findings from the quant card sort and to explore themes further. The qualitative card sort is normally carried out face-to-face using real cards that are sorted and organised on a table.
If we need to conduct the qualitative card sort remotely, perhaps due to geographic spread, or to include hard to reach participants, we revert to using Optimal Sort. Optimal Sort is the tool we use to conduct the quantitative card sort and it is perfectly designed for the qualitative card sort also. We share the screen we are working on using a video conferencing technology such as Zoom so that stakeholders can watch the session.
Remote UX Research involving a translator – Where remote UX research is conducted in a different language to that of the client stakeholders and they want to listen live, we use a simultaneous translator. The translator watches the session live, using Zoom or Lookback as described above. They broadcast the translated audio on a separate channel, again using Zoom or similar, and the stakeholders have the option of listening to the original or translator audio channel.
Remote UX Research participant recruitment
The overall participant recruitment process is very similar whether face-to-face or remote, but we do have to make some adaptations for remote. The key considerations are as follows:
- will they be able to join using a fast and stable internet connection?
- will they have access to a headset?
- they will need to get set up ahead of the session when using certain technologies to avoid delays to a session starting
- we need to capture information about the device they have if mobile UX research
- Consent and payment of incentive will also be dealt with differently
We use a different screener and have various instructions and online tools we use to ensure the sessions run as smoothly as possible.
Delivering the Findings
The deliverables from remote UX research are the same as those for non-remote research. There is slightly more effort required to process the video’s captured from tools such as Zoom, as the file naming conventions need to be altered or it can be difficult to associate a video with a session.
There can also be some post production required of translator audio with session video, if the requirement calls for the delivery of English language video for all countries. This can be a requirement for any UX research though so the process is well understood.
We run a lot of remote research in any case, but with the recent Coronavirus pandemic we had to migrate all our clients’ projects from face-to-face research. At the time of the outbreak we had multiple projects “in flight” using various methodologies. This included the evaluation of different mobile prototype options in four countries that we moved over to Lookback.
In India, we recently ran two separate discovery research projects that involved multiple participant interviews (20 to 30 per project) each lasting 90-120 minutes. In this case remote research was selected as the solution because of the vast geographical area and the need to speak with people across the country.
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