Ideally, user research and testing is conducted in person at a location where a person performs an action or task. There are multiple factors that affect user behavior. As a user researcher, you need to read and understand your user’s body language, and know where it is appropriate to probe and when. How is this research impacted when it’s not possible to be physically located with your test audience? With the rapid pace of innovation and increasingly global focus of organizations, how can we adapt our approach?
In some cases (and I’m seeing this increasingly more), in-person user testing is not always possible. Personally, I believe that remote research is better than not having a user testing sprint at all. Testing products where users are geographically dispersed, scheduling a series of online remote user testing sessions can be preferable -- and far less costly -- than traveling each time an iteration needs testing. A remote testing approach allows your team to move faster and iterate quickly -- allowing you to concentrate on building the product your customer really needs.
Participants can be from any geographic area rather than concentrated in one location, which makes recruiting faster and easier. Remote user testing allows the users to use their own computers for the study, letting you see how they set up their desktop, navigate between programs, and use tabs. This gives insight into how people work with their machines and also what interaction they have with other programs while they use your product. Here are a few things to consider before getting into the tools for remote user testing:
While there are many online tools for unmoderated remote user testing, for moderated user testing a simple online meeting tool would work. Any VOIP tool that allows real time video recording like GotoMeeting, Webex, Fuze etc. can be used.
Once you have performed the user testing, now what? You need to analyze the results, watch the user testing video over and over again, understand the users’ actions and pain points. See if there is a pattern of user behavior appearing across different users whom you have tested. It is said that you just have to user test the product with only 5 users to get a pattern of behavior.
Having heard to answers for the why’s and how’s of remote user testing. Now the question comes up when to conduct the user testing sessions? It is better to have the user testing as part of a research sprint before the actual sprint starts. This should answer open questions for the upcoming sprint and verify if the previous sprint produced a usable product. The necessary changes for the product that came from user testing can be accommodated in the upcoming sprint as well. However having guerilla user testing sessions conducted during the iterative development of the product is also good, just we need to make sure that the necessary changes for defects or needed enhancements that came out of user testing results are tracked and implemented.
These are just some methods that have had successful outcomes for me, what’s worked for you?
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.