Remote UX Labs

At Evolve, we love all types of market research. One of our absolute favorite methodologies is the usability lab. In these labs, we observe people interacting with websites and apps to uncover issues that users could experience that would render the site difficult or even completely unusable.

Traditionally we've conducted these labs in-person, with an interviewer sitting next to the respondent and asking them to complete tasks on the website and ask questions about their experience. But over time, we've shifted to conducting these labs remotely, and the result has been revolutionary!

Similar to conducting focus groups virtually, remote user-experience (UX) labs work so well because the respondent is in a familiar setting (e.g., their home or office) instead of sitting in an unfamiliar location with someone looking over their shoulder. They're also using their own device to experience the website or app, rather than using the interviewer's smartphone or computer. The remote format also enables us to interview people across the country or even the globe with no travel involved.

This format is not without its drawbacks, though. Tech issues can rear its ugly head from time to time, such as losing connection mid-interview. And while screen-sharing technology has been around for quite some time, you can't pass remote control over to respondents on a mobile device (like you can on desktop). This isn't an issue when testing a fully functioning site, but we're often testing clickable prototypes where the website or app is still in the development stage. In these cases, we cannot merely send the respondent a link because the designs are confidential.

However, while these issues are inconvenient, they can present us with unique workarounds that could make the research more insightful. In a recent UX study, we tested a mobile web prototype and wanted to pass control to the respondents to click around and mimic a real-life experience. Since there was no way of getting around this issue, we opted to have the moderator share their screen and have the respondent tell us where to click. While not ideal at first, we found that this change allowed us to control the interview flow better. By "forcing" the respondent to tell us where to click, we were able to ask follow-up questions before they advanced to the next screen - this allowed us to hone in on user expectations which is vital to understanding the user experience. This format also made the respondents more comfortable in articulating their experience with the site.

Ultimately, we're big fans of remote UX labs and would recommend this methodology to anyone updating their website or wanting to assess their site for usability issues.


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Posted by Stewart

Stewart is passionate about all things research. Designing studies, analyzing data, and moderating interviews - Stew does it all. Outside of research, he enjoys trying new recipes in the kitchen and exploring the OKC food and craft beer scene with his wife, Jade.

Topics: How To's, Research, What We Do