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Remote UX Research — our selection of the best online tools to conduct it

October 6, 2020

If remote research was already a reality for a lot of UX teams, 2020 made it a reality for most of us. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people had to stay in lockdown which, in order to keep projects and research going, meant having to adapt and finding new ways to conduct research (without losing important insights).

As a company that focus on UX research and design, we gathered some of the best tools to conduct remote research and combined them, with our personal knowledge, in this article.

That being said, some questions come to mind like: Can remote research be the future normality for the UX field? Are there down sides to it? We’ll try to answer some of those doubts throughout this article.

Research Methods and Tools

Research methods can be distinguished between quantitative and qualitative (for more information on this topic, we recommend checking the article “When to Use Which User-Experience Research Methods” on Nielsen Norman Group website) and although, most of the time, they take place in person, we will enumerate some of the methods that can be remotely done and the tools you can use to complete them.

1.Remote Quantitative Research

As for remote quantitative research, there are methods like card sorts, surveys, A/B testing, clickstream analysis, and others. For these, here are some examples of online tools you can use:

Hotjar — Collect data from, heatmaps, visitor recordings and surveys. And one of its neat features: users can leave notes directly during the test.

Optimal Workshop — It allows for a variety of different research types but we recommend it because of the way it presents data at the end of the tests.

2.Remote Qualitative Research

As for remote qualitative research, which is not about numbers but more about understanding the user’s behaviour, motivations and opinions, it can be either moderated (usability tests, user interviews, focus groups and workshops) or unmoderated (usability tests).

2.1. Moderated

When conducting remote moderated usability tests and user interviews, the user and the facilitator (the person that conducts the research) are present, at the same time, in a virtual space/tool. They will follow a protocol with tasks/questions and the facilitator will guide the process. Any platform that allows for screen sharing and video/sound recording will most likely work for this. And keep in mind that, just like in person, in these scenarios it’s possible to read the user’s facial expressions and tone of voice. Therefore, remember to look for particular silent moments since they can be key to ask what’s going through the user’s mind. For this we recommend:

Zoom — Great for interviews, allowing for screen sharing/recording. One of its cool features is a parallel audio channel for interpreters.

UserZoom — A good all-in-one tool, with a vast possibility of research methods. It can cover participant sourcing and automated reports.

UserTesting — It allows you to test on a range of different devices and get data so specific as time spent on each task.

If, on another end, you’ll be facilitating a remote focus group or workshop you’ll probably need a tool that allows for participants to organise their ideas. For these cases we recommend either Miro or Mural (which are really similar).

Miro — It’s prepared to integrate more apps than Mural.

Mural — It has some great features for facilitators like allowing you to lock some content on the page. Also, they released a cool manual for remote workshops. Check it out: “The Definitive Guide to Facilitating Remote Workshops”

2.2. Unmoderated

Unmoderated user testing can be of great use since it doesn’t depend on time zones or your team’s availability! In these cases, the user will have access to the protocol (with the tasks for the test) and will perform it whenever they can, without daily schedules being needed. Most tools for unmoderated usability tests will capture video and sound which allows you to observe the user’s facial expressions and reactions afterwards.

Lookback — Every time a user finishes a test it will automatically appear on your dashboard. They created a simple app for users to access in order to complete the test, without an account being needed.

Userbrain — Userbrain is compatible with prototypes built almost in any platform. It seems to be a fairly good price for the product you get.

Remote mode: yay 👍 or nay 👎

So, can UX research be successful on a remote mode? Definitely.

Some of its great advantages: no time spent on commutes and therefore less delays; gathering data from international participants is a possibility; unmoderated solutions allow for no timezone restrictions and more schedule flexibility (for you and for the users).

What are the down sides to it? Well, the most evident one is internet connection. You have to count with internet breaks not only in your end but on the user’s end as well so, be prepared to reschedule due to internet connection issues. Interpreting body language and user’s reactions can be harder than in person but, not impossible.

Concluding, it seems to us that the advantages definitely make up for some of the down sides. With nothing else to say for now, have fun exploring the online research tools we mentioned and the many others existing out there, in order to decide which ones work best for you.

by Cláudia Pinto

Planning a remote research project?

Using screen and voice recording software, Xperienz can run remote interviews in Portugal or anywhere the world. We can moderate the sessions, develop unmoderated testing and build effective surveys.

We’ll recruit users to match your screener, ask the right questions, analyse and evaluate all the findings, and come up with an action plan to improve your product.

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