How to conduct remote user testing?

Kasia Radziejewska
24 June 2020

No matter how well thought your product is, users will always surprise you. That’s why it's essential to get their opinion before you spend a lot of money on your product development. It will avoid you having to correct the UX solutions that people don't understand, save you time and money building unnecessary features, and even broaden your comprehension of the problem. How to get all of those benefits? Observe, listen, and learn from your users.

What is user testing, and why does it not always mean the same thing? 

Any activity that aims to gather data for your product research and involves your user can be referred to as user testing. It includes different types of testing:

  • Conducting interviews to understand the pains of your persona.
  • Creating questionnaires for gathering data about potential users.
  • Working with focus groups to find new aspects of the problem your product will solve.
     

Nowadays, the meaning has narrowed. It has become popular to consider 'user testing' as a synonym for 'usability testing' or 'interface testing.' That means introducing users to the prototype or the product and gathering feedback about their experience to come up with a solution. 

Remote user testing: does it have to be a nightmare?

As more and more activities are happening online, we need to find a solution that allows us to observe users’ behaviors and reactions without meeting them face to face. Not only is it already possible, but it gives you some unique advantages to successfully plan product development

Observe your users in their natural environment

The whole concept of user testing creates an artificial situation. Doing it remotely may help you gather more precise data by letting people use their preferred and well-known device while lowering the stress factor. As a result, they are showing you more natural reactions.

Limit time and money needed for each test

You do not have to look for a suitable place to conduct usability tests and prepare a room and devices for every interview or observation. What's more, your users will have more time for you as they do not have to commute and change their schedules.

Geography will not be an issue

Even if choosing a persona from a different continent, you can always reach respondents online. Knowing that you will not cause them trouble will make it much easier to convince users to take part in your research.

Speed up the process of gathering data

With no much preparation needed and respondents having a flexible schedule, you will be able to set more user testings. The whole testing process will be shorter, and you'll get the necessary feedback within days.

How to avoid the most common issues while conducting remote user testing?

You may think that remote user testing is the perfect solution for your research. But there are some specific rules that you should follow to avoid common traps and get the proper data.

Choose the right users

This rule does not apply only to remote versions of the testing. You can ruin any research by not interviewing or observing your actual persona and gathering data that will mislead you. Let go of the idea of asking your friends. They might not be the right type of users, most likely already know your product, and will be biased. 

Do not book too many interviews or usability testings

Being able to plan more testing sessions may make you greedy. After 3 to 5 interviews (depending on the length), you will get tired, less focused, and will miss important observations or even omit questions that will end in losing or influencing the data.

Plan breaks between testing sessions

Although you do not need to clean or prepare the room or even the devices, your users will act as during onsite testing. They might be late, or you will have to spend additional time fighting their technical problems. Also, it's always good to rest and gather your thoughts before the next round.

Make sure you send proper instructions

As you will be using some online tool or program, make sure that the user understands how to access it. List all of the potential issues that might arise. It will save a lot of time and stress during the session. Since you cannot control the device used by your respondent, ask about it: is it a particular type of mobile phone, or does the user have a mouse or a mic?

Be aware of what you might not see

Observing the process in a natural environment is a distinct advantage, but remember that you will only see a part of the picture. You might miss the body language or not fully understand the context. Look for distractions: are there other people in your user's room, background noise, or any other factor that will influence the respondent's mood or behavior? If so, add them to your observations.

Always have a backup solution in case of technical problems

Remote testing is more prone to issues due to the internet connection or compatibility of the tools. If one program does not work, find a replacement. Establish an additional form of contact upfront, so you can easily communicate with your users and guide them through the tool or suggest an alternative.

Remote user testing tools: is it necessary to spend a lot of money on them?

There are many tools that you can use for your user testing, depending on the type of research. Here, we're using Lookback for both interviews and real-time usability testing. It is dependable, user-friendly, and has the option to invite observers without bothering the respondent. If you're starting with your research using well-known Google Hangouts or Zoom, sharing the screen will let you gather enough data (screen recording, which you can use later to supplement your notes).

For unmoderated testing, you can try Useberry. It's simple, colorful and enables you to create tasks and prepare questions about your prototype. It is compatible with most common prototype tools, such as Figma, Invision, or Zeplin. 

Last but not least. If you're looking for qualitative data and want to build a survey, Typeform will make your questionnaires look professional and pleasing. It has options to create many different types of questions. Of course, for simple surveys, you can use battle-tested Google Forms. 

All of the tools listed are free or have free trials/plans, so you can try conducting some research and see if they suit your needs.

Test, analyze, learn, and sleep better

We test to get a better grasp of users' needs and ways of thinking, to quickly adjust the hypothesis and increase the chance for our product to succeed. If you're doing any research, you're in a much better position already. The thing is, whether you're doing quantitative or qualitative research, conduct it onsite or remotely, all options bring both opportunities and limitations. Understanding those will let you choose the right method, analyze your data correctly, and discover the picture that is closest to the truth.


If you’d like us to give you a hand, let us know or drop us a line at hello@start-up.house

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