Why Do We Need Remote User Research?

Why Do We Need Remote User Research?

Remote user research has completely changed how we understand and connect with people who use our products. With everyone staying home to stay safe from the pandemic, companies needed a way to keep learning from their users. So, they turned to remote research. And because of that, the tools and ways we do remote research got better and better.

Overview: Remote User Research

Before the internet became popular, we had to meet with users face-to-face to learn from them. This meant everyone had to be in the same place, and it took a lot of time and money to travel and get everything ready.

When the internet and email became more common, we started researching remotely. We could send surveys and questions through email and even watch people use our products from far away. Tools like Skype and Zoom helped a lot because we could have group discussions without needing to be in the same room.

Things really changed when smartphones became popular. We could see how people used our apps and websites in real life from their phones. This was a big deal because it gave us a sneak peek into their everyday lives, which helped us make our products even better.

Source: Planio

When Should You Conduct Remote User Research?

You should conduct remote user research to understand how people use your product in their natural environment or to reach people spread across different locations. Other times you should use this method are:

  • Spread Out Users: If your users are all over the place, even in different countries, you can use remote user research to learn about them without needing to travel.
  • Pressed for Time: Doing research remotely can help speed things up if you’re in a hurry. You can arrange meetings one after the other without needing to travel.
  • Save Money: If you’re tight on money, remote research is cheaper. You won’t need to spend money on travel, renting a place, or hiring equipment.
  • See Real Behavior: When you research remotely, you can see how people use your product or service in their own space, giving you real, genuine results.
  • Safe and Sound: In situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, remote research is the safest way to learn about users while keeping a distance.
  • Reach All Corners: If your product or service is for people worldwide, remote research helps you learn from all kinds of people and cultures.
  • More Participants: With remote research, you can talk to more people than you usually can with in-person methods. This is great if you need to hear from a lot of people about your study.
Source: UX Mag

Remote User Research: Moderated vs. Unmoderated

Remote user research mainly falls into two categories: moderated and unmoderated.

Moderated Remote User Research

In guided remote user research, a researcher is like a coach who talks with people while they’re testing something. Asking questions helps you understand your thoughts. But this method has good and not-so-good points!

Advantages of Moderated Remote User Research

  • The researcher is there to ask more questions and really get into the person’s thoughts, feelings, and reasons for doing things. This helps gather rich information.
  • If the person testing is confused or unclear, the researcher can sort it out immediately, leading to better, clearer results.

Disadvantages of Moderated Remote User Research

  • The person testing and the researcher have to be there simultaneously, which can be hard to arrange. Each session has to be set up, run, and then reviewed, which takes a lot of time.
  • Just having the researcher there might change how the person acts, which could affect the results.
ALSO READ: Research Problem: An Easy-To-Follow Guide For Beginners 

Unmoderated Remote User Research

Unguided remote user research is when people test something on their own without a researcher helping them along in real time. This way also has its upsides and downsides!

Advantages of Unmoderated Remote User Research

  • People can do the testing whenever they want, making it easier to find many different people to take part.
  • More people can be tested simultaneously without a researcher for each test.
  • People might act more like they normally would without a researcher there, giving a true picture of how they interact with the product or service.

Disadvantages of Unmoderated Remote User Research

  • Without the chance to ask more questions as things happen, you might not get as much detail as you do with guided research.
  • Researchers can’t control the testing situation as much and can’t help if someone is confused.
  • What you find out depends on how well people can explain their own thoughts and feelings.
Source: Usability Hub

What are the Tools Used in Remote User Research?

Tools for Unmoderated Remote User Research

  • Virtual Interviews: These are like normal face-to-face chats but done through video or voice calls. Tools like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams are used for this. The researcher asks questions, and the participant answers them, giving room for deep chats and immediate extra questions.
  • Virtual Usability Testing: This is when participants use something while the researcher watches and asks questions. Tools like Lookback or UserZoom let researchers see a participant’s screen and reactions as they use a product, giving instant feedback and answers.
  • Focus Groups: These are discussions where a group of people talk about a product or idea. Tools like Zoom or Webex let lots of participants join a call at once and share their thoughts. The researcher guides the talk and can delve deeper into certain topics.

Tools for Unmoderated Remote User Research

  • Survey Studies: Surveys are lists of questions that participants answer by themselves. Tools like Google Forms and Survey Point are used to make and send out these surveys.
  • Diary Studies: In diary studies, participants note down their experiences over time. Such tools let the participants log their experiences, feelings, and thoughts about a product over days or weeks. This method shows how things are used over the long term.
  • Card Sorting: Card sorting is when participants put topics or tasks into groups that make sense to them. It’s useful for understanding how users sort information and can help design better systems.
  • Automated Usability Testing: This is when users test a product, and software automatically records what they do. Researchers can look at these recordings later to spot any problems or difficulties.
ALSO READ: How To Carry Out Business Research Like a Pro

What Benefits And Drawbacks Does Remote Research Offer?

While remote research has benefits, it has a few drawbacks as well:

Pros of Remote User Research

  • Comfort for Participants: People can take part from their own homes, making them more relaxed and likely to act naturally.
  • Wide Reach: You can include people from all over the world, not just those who live nearby.
  • Flexible Timing: People can take part when it suits them, which can mean more people are able to join in.

Cons of Remote Research

  • Less Control: You can’t control the participant’s environment like you can in a lab, so unexpected distractions might pop up.
  • Tech Issues: There can be problems with internet connections or equipment that disrupt the session.
  • Non-Verbal Cues: It can be harder to pick up on things like body language, which can sometimes give extra insights.
ALSO READ: Understanding Research Reports & Top Tips To Write Them!

Wrapping Up

Both guided and unguided remote user research methods are useful. The best one to use depends on things like what you’re trying to find out, what resources you have, and how quickly you need results.

Sometimes, using several tools can give the best overall picture!

Survey Point Team
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