At Goodpatch, we’re often asked the why, how and what about remote usability testing. As a company that has our own, in-house, user testing lab and extensive experience collaborating with remote teams, we know a thing or two about remote user testing tools and best practices.
Remote user testing allows for products to be tested from a distance by users in their natural environment — usually the comfort of their own living rooms. There are a number of reasons why you might need to hold a remote user testing session: Maybe your target users are an ocean away or perhaps you’re short on time and don’t have the budget for a user testing facility.
Your target users can be much more diverse since you are no longer limited by geography.
- Quick to organize
Testers are more reachable and available on their own schedules.
- Easy to technically set up
Users are familiar with their own desktop, keyboard, and programs, requiring less training and prep for all parties involved.
- 100% germ free
In the event of a global pandemic, you can still run user tests without the fear of spreading infectious diseases.
- Safe space to open up
The comfort of your home is generally the best place to talk about taboo topics such as sextech, mindfulness, medication, etc.
Remote testing can be managed two ways: moderated and unmoderated. Moderated testing is conducted as though both the user and tester are in the same, albeit virtual, space. This option is better if you’re looking for qualitative feedback and need to conduct user interviews, understand how users navigate through your product, and observe any pain points and moments of frustration.
Unmoderated user testings, on the other hand, are ideal if you need more quick, quantitative feedback and are looking to validate a concept, dedicated flow, or a small feature with users around the world. Reach a large number of users to get a representative and effective result. This can be as easy as sending a link and allowing them to try the product and send feedback on their own timeline.
How do we do it at Goodpatch?
“As a team split across 3 different cities around the globe, we understand the complexities that come with different time zones, work styles, and even language barriers.”
We involve our stakeholders throughout the process, working across teams to define the project scope and in the creation of a user testing guide. We carefully plan each session (moderated or unmoderated), create user interview scripts, recruit testers, and also host and facilitate each user testing session. At the end of each session, we gather findings, conduct a careful analysis, and deliver a final report complete with insights and strategic, UI/UX recommendations for a successful product launch.
Making remote tools accessible to everyone
You know how hard it can be to face-time with your grandparents. Getting your users onboarded and seamlessly connected is a must, especially if you are working with a target group that is less used to certain technologies. That’s why at Goodpatch, we are prioritizing tools that don’t require any software installation.
“I find it especially important that the technology not only works well, but that is also easy for the user to set up. For example, in a project with an elderly target group of over 50 years old, it’s safe to assume that installing new software may become an obstacle — it has to be quick and easy. In this case, we used Jitsi. The user received a link via email and was in the call with us without needing to register!”
Video conferencing serves multiple purposes
Video conferencing becomes especially useful when testing digital products, like apps or websites remotely. Most video conferencing applications allow you to share your screen, which allows you to see what your tester is doing on their device, thereby eliminating the need for additional hard- or software tools and applications.
We like to use the popular conference call software Zoom. Over the past few years, it’s become a fixture in our company’s workflow since we appreciate its very reliable connection and meaningful features. Zoom also allows you to record the complete session, taking the pressure off your computer to do a screencast.
Yes, your computer’s performance is a factor!
Documentation of your user testing is crucial for the analysis, so it’s very important that the recording computer performs well. Screen recording often requires a large amount of CPU capacity which, depending on your machine, can influence your application’s reaction time, not to mention the sound and video quality.
“To make sure my laptop runs smoothly, I try to hand-off video and audio to my iPad and only use my laptop for screen sharing during the call.”
Keeping interviews as natural as possible
In addition to user tests, we conduct a number of user interviews to gain more comprehensive user insights. User interviews are very easy to do remote. Although in some cases, an old school phone call may do the trick, conversation over video allows the interviewer to see the interviewee’s expressions, environment, and get a deeper understanding of users’ feelings and general attitude.
“I think sound quality is often underestimated. I’ve always been annoyed by the huge gaming headsets, so I looked for an alternative and stumbled upon USB clip-on microphones. These not only make you look very professional, they also deliver great sound quality for a very affordable price”
Making collaboration 2.0 the next big thing
Real time online collaboration with peers during a testing session enables faster iteration and effective note taking.
To document our notes during the sessions we use tools like Notion, Dovetail, Whimsical or Miro. They digitalize our beloved whiteboards and enable us to collaborate inside any browser. This is a huge advantage, since nobody needs to install any additional software and you can work on ideas together even if you’re not in the same workshop room.
“I got into digital tools for synthesis when working on a joint project between our studios in Berlin and Tokyo. The user testing took place in Japan with our colleagues from Tokyo, but the Berlin team did the synthesis. We used Whimsical to digitize all insights from the testing and were able to collaboratively cluster, group, and make sense of all the data together with our colleagues in Tokyo in real-time.”
We’ve all sat in the awkward conference call asking: “Is Diana here? Can you see my screen? Did we lose him?” When it comes to remote user testing, however, these are questions that are best avoided to maintain flow and focus on the product being tested. Ultimately, this can be accomplished with the right tools and the thoughtful deployment of technology.
At Goodpatch, we offer the possibility to do both moderated and unmoderated remote usability testing. If you have a question, would like to book a session, or just feel like saying hi, please send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
References that have taught us the most
- Remote Usability Tests: Moderated and Unmoderated by Amy Schade on October 12, 2013
- Remote Usability Testing 101 & How to Get Started by Justin Morales on March 17, 2020
- What is remote usability testing? by Steven Carr on February 2020