Remote UX Research — Methods, Process, Tips, and Tools
The constantly developing research landscape has led to most companies and individuals relying on digital methodologies. Researchers are compelled to adopt remote UX research to stay in line with the changing trends and ensure smooth workflow.
So, has it been a productive process?
Though remote research methods need revolutionary technology, they are helpful over the long term.
It has countless perks like flexibility, time, location, resources, and cost-efficiency. Still, you cannot ignore the limitations that come along.
These may include a lack of focus on the subject, risk of prototype misuse, and a lack of control over technology. This blog will walk you through ways to overcome limitations, along with tips and a step-by-step remote UX research process.
What is Remote UX Research?
UX research essentially means identifying the behavioral patterns, likes, dislikes, and needs of your customers for new products and services. UX researchers conduct it through in-depth analysis, feedback, and close monitoring.
This method of gaining insights into user behavior when they use the products and services remotely refers to remote UX research.
It is quick, easy to monitor, and highly reliable if you have the latest devices and software. Besides, a remote process lets you conduct massive research in a short period. All this, with your audience being in their comfortable space.
That raises questions like why remote UX research.
Remote UX Research is the Need of the Hour
The primary reason behind this approach is its efficiency. It is a time-saving process with minimal setting-up requirements. Besides, the introduction of concepts like the metaverse, digital-first spaces, and co-dependency between humans and technology further induces researchers to go remote.
According to a report by User Interviews, about 90% of UX researchers have conducted their research remotely since the pandemic. This is a significant hike from the 21% rate the previous year.
Besides, with new techniques knocking the industry, adopting remote UX research is more than beneficial.
- Ease of adapting
- Expert outcomes
These are just a few of the many advantages of this approach. In-person research requires physical presence, and installation costs, and has time limitations. However, remote research overcomes these barriers.
Remote or digital UX research is relatively more in line with the current trend. Additionally, this approach is perfectly future-proof as the world is transitioning to an all-digital space.
Tips to Conduct Remote UX Research
Remote UX research lets the participants stay in a natural environment, ensuring more authentic reactions and results. However, it requires some amount of caution and preparation from your side.
Before heading towards the tips, let's understand under which circumstances is remote research an ideal option.
When Is Remote Research A Preferable Option?
It is the most sought-after method for time, distance, and equipment constraints.
- Distance: When you’re seeking to connect with customers spread out across the globe. It may happen if you wish to analyze people from multiple markets.
- Time: If you intend to include participants who don’t have much time on their hands. In such a case, you may have to conduct the research beyond working hours. This may require more incentives.
- Ethnographic approach: If you wish to note the response of the participants in their cultural setting, this is a better option. You can opt for such an approach when you wish to study the subject’s natural environment regarding a particular culture.
- Budget: When the budget is difficult to manage. Working inside a lab or a setting requires additional costs – something the remote approach can help mitigate.
- Target audience: When you have to conduct UX research with a target audience comprising students and young professionals, remote analysis is a good option. These individuals are comfortable using the latest tools, which may not be the same with senior citizens.
- Research objective: Consider the prime purpose of your research. If it requires a controlled environment, remote research may not be the best approach.
Now that you know whether conducting remote UX research is the ideal option or not let's jump to the tips.
Ask These Questions When Defining Your Remote UX Research Project
While preparing to conduct the research, you need to ascertain your approach.
- Unsynchronised or co-occurring research
The cooccurring or synchronous approach requires you and all the participants to assemble at a given time, either in-person or virtually. While this approach helps get immediate responses, it can get challenging to answer every participant's questions at once.
Asynchronous or unsynchronised research involves participants filling out a feedback form. They can do it at their convenience while the answers are stored. However, participants cannot clear their doubts in such a setting and may have reduced interest in the feedback.
- Moderated or unmoderated usability test
Once you collect the feedback, making amends to the product or service becomes easy. The participants then have to test the altered product for further analysis.
The moderated test requires the participant to use the product while the researcher is present. You can follow this approach in-person or virtually where you, as the researcher, can closely monitor the participant's reaction.
This research may require additional setup and attention to the response when conducted in person. However, during remote research, you can monitor the participant's reactions through screen tracking software or a webcam, making it relatively easier.
Unmoderated testing does not require the researcher to be present during the test session, whether online or in-person. Though convenient, it prevents the researcher from providing additional instructions and gaining specific information other than what the user records.
An excellent example of unmoderated remote UX research is the A/B testing conducted by Spotify. Earlier, the music streaming platform used the 'hamburger menu,' a.k.a., the standard menu with a three-line icon. However, the users preferred the tab bar. Changing their menu led to a visible improvement in the user experience and minimised subscription exits.
Things to Consider During the Remote UX Research Process
Preparing a detailed research plan: A well-detailed, holistic plan is critical before initiating the research. This will ensure you stick to a set process without missing any significant steps. It must comprise:
- Research background
- End goals
- Contingency or backup plans
- Expected outcomes
Know your audience: You must put yourself in their shoes to succeed in the research. Try to understand the methods your audience will be comfortable with and more likely to engage with. Additionally, be fully present during the session instead of multitasking to gauge the results better.
Offer tech assistance: Conducting remote research requires the usage of multiple different tools. To avoid wasting time with tech issues, offer instructions to your audience before you start. Make sure they’re clear and to the point, as some participants may have little to no tech knowledge.
Document everything: Recording the sessions is imperative while conducting remote research, and so is making notes. You might observe tiny details but forget when you go through the recordings. Rigorous note-making is crucial for any research setting.
Connect through visuals: Try to make the research sessions engaging through visuals. Use videos, presentations, or infographics to gain more insights from the users and conduct an interactive session.
Analyse the questionnaire multiple times: You may often find the data incomplete while conducting moderate research. This can occur due to the lack of clarity in questions. Frame straightforward questions that the participants understand and give clear answers.
Remote UX Research Process – Step-by-Step Explanation
The remote UX research process requires critical planning and decision-making. You must follow a scientific method to ensure you don't miss any aspect.
Step 1: Observe
Your first step is to collect data. Once you have assembled the data through different methods like interviews and surveys, it’s time to make an observation. It will reflect what your target audience suggests.
For example, if you’re building a car repair application, surveys will tell you why they need such an app. On the other hand, you can spot user behavior patterns through interviews.
Step 2: Hypothesise
From your observation results, assume the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and create a prototype.
Taking the example of the car repair app, draft the application prototype to prepare it for testing.
Step 3: Action
This step requires you to experiment, that is, test the sample model you created. You can do this by various methods like A/B testing, usability studies – moderated or unmoderated, and card sorting.
For example, A/B testing can help you assess which app design your audience prefers more while in need of a car repair service. Plus, a usability test can help you evaluate whether an individual can search for the nearest service point when in need or not.
Step 4: Analysis
You will get a blend of qualitative and quantitative data from the different remote UX research methods. This section primarily includes sorting, organising, and cleaning the data. Through this, you can exclude the outliers and analyse them well.
For your car repair app UX research, you may have qualitative data from interviews and surveys. Additionally, you will get quantitative data from A/B testing. Create visuals and reports to make the data representable.
Step 5: Findings
Organise your findings in a presentable manner so that you can share them and collaborate with the team.
You may have to present your car repair app research findings to designers, developers, and investors.
Why Conduct Remote UX Research: Benefits
Conducting in-person research sessions can be expensive, challenging for participants to attend, and overall inefficient. Remote UX research overcomes such challenges by bringing flexibility to every aspect of the research.
The prime advantage of remote research is that of the location. You can conduct it from any corner of the world and include participants from across the globe.
Since it does not require an individual to be present physically, you can fix a time that suits everyone. Besides, it is fast and time-efficient as no one has to invest time in traveling to and from the location.
More Convenient While Recruiting Participants
Recruiting participants for remote UX research is undoubtedly easier. In this case, the attendees do not have to leave their houses or homes for the sessions. You can do it in lesser time without extra effort, letting more participants join willingly.
An Inclusive and Comfortable Process
Participants can attend the research sessions from the comfort of their own space. Moreover, this approach does not request you to only recruit any particular section of the society due to any constraint.
It is Easier To Observe, Evaluate, And Communicate With Customers
Another great benefit is its accuracy. Remote research lets you analyse the expressions of the participant more closely. That's because in-person sessions usually require the researcher and the attendees to sit adjacent, causing a barrier in observation.
Tools for Remote UX Research
Remote UX research is all about using the right set of tools to observe, record, and analyse. Therefore, this part holds high significance in the entire process. Good news – there are a lot of options available easily!
Remote UX Research Limitations and Solutions
While there are countless benefits of remote UX research, you cannot ignore its disadvantages. The good news is, that there are concrete solutions to overcome these limitations.
- Some participant expressions, gestures, and body language may get cut
Solution: While it is difficult to note all the expressions remotely, it's still possible. You can use research tools like screen and audio sharing software. This way, you'll be able to see and record the participant's voice, expressions, and how they are using the app.
- Inability to understand the participant’s context in a natural environment
Solution: In case you want to observe an individual's behavior in their natural environment, ask them to put on a webcam. Lay down precise details about the participant's requirement to move around and show you the ambiance, think aloud, and more.
- Less control over the technology a participant uses
Solution: During the recruitment process itself, clearly specify the type of devices and software you would need a participant to use. For example, you can select only individuals with a fast-working internet network, the latest model webcam, and Android devices.
- Paper prototypes don’t work
Solution: The current technology is sufficient to create all types of prototypes. While paper prototypes are easy to make and get a higher level of criticism, you can create them digitally in minutes. A low-fidelity electronic prototype will effortlessly serve the purpose.
UX research is not just an additional requirement, it is a necessity. Any product built without understanding the needs and pain points of the users is next to useless. Besides, the UX of each individual is subjective. It depends on factors like their preferences, environment, needs, and other daily life requirements.
For example, users may not be able to use your banking app simply because they don't keep their money in a bank.
UX research is not merely understanding the 'what.' It also needs you to investigate the 'why' and 'how.'
User experience research has existed since the 1900s, but the techniques have evolved. To stay ahead of your competitors and design a flawless product, remote UX research is the need of the hour. With the world going digital remote research has taken precedence.
As per a survey, about 19% of UX researchers agree that remote UX research is a better option.
Remote UX research is helping transform businesses and shaping industries by building deeper bonds with the target audience. This is just the beginning. Coming times are expecting to witness the involvement of machine learning, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technology at a deeper level.
Why is remote UX research helpful?
With the entire world transitioning to the remote work landscape, remote UX research has gained significant dominance in product and design research. The approach is agile, flexible, and cost-effective. Apart from removing time and location barriers, it ensures a comfortable environment for the customers and better observation opportunities for the examiner.
How to conduct remote UX research?
When it comes to conducting the research, you must start by defining the main objectives. Doing this will help you lay the roadmap and decide between the different options like asynchronous and synchronous research, and moderated and unmoderated usability tests. Once you have a plan in place, understand your audience, ensure tech support, and prepare your materials beforehand.
What are the key steps in remote UX research?
Check out this simple step-by-step approach to Remote UX research:
Does remote UX research have any disadvantages?
Irrespective of its countless perks, know that this technique does have its set of downsides like limited control over technology, challenges in monitoring customer reactions, and barriers to understanding the participant’s context.
How to overcome remote UX research challenges?
You can easily opt for solutions like webcam, screen sharing tools, and other latest technologies. Some of the most common tools used for remote UX research include Zoom, Slack, Google Hangout, and Mural.
Why remote UX research for business?
Letting the end-consumer test the product first-hand allows you to spot the limitations effortlessly and remote UX research makes it all possible.