Times are changing, and rapidly. The need for user feedback – early and often – on projects is causing UX managers to increasingly look towards online tools and remote practices. If you’re in the market for moderated research, but want to keep your costs down, consider remote moderated user research. If you can schedule an interview with a user, you can schedule a Web session with a user, and many organizations and researchers are doing just that, providing a Web conference line for users to dial into. During the session, any number of things can happen, including:
– Reviewing mockups of an interface
– Reviewing a site or interactive demo and having the user click through and explore
– Think out loud sessions where the user
– Pre- and post-session interviews with the user, much as in any usability session
Standard conferencing tools such as GoTo Meeting and Webex can be easily used for these sessions. Most Web conferencing tools allow you to record sessions for review later by the researchers or other team members.
There are two major benefits to conducting remotely moderated user research. Perhaps the biggest benefit of remotely moderating interviews remotely does reduce the costs associated with facility interviews. That can eliminate $1,000-$1,5000 a day or more for focus group or market research facility rentals.
Another benefit is that it is simply not always possible to get the right users to a single lab setting. Remote moderation in these cases is the best option for capturing the best range of user feedback.
One of the biggest disadvantages of remote moderated user research is that it can be surprisingly difficult to schedule, particularly with business users who are used to rescheduling phone meetings (“I have a fire to put out,” we often hear, upon calling a business user for a remote session). Providing an incentive can help in this situation, but unlike lab-based research, where the user has to show up in order to get the incentive, business users think they can keep rescheduling forever and still get their incentive. This is a time-waster. Such inefficiencies can mean that the actual time to book, interview, and analyze remote interviews can be remarkably similar to lab-sessions.
You need to think through in advance how to handle missed appointments depending on who the users are, and how important they are to your business (are they existing clients? prospective customers? employees? consumers who meet certain criteria?). Having a clear strategy and approach (and doing the same thing for all users) will help address the situation.
Objections aside, remote moderated user research adds real value to your basic set of user experience research techniques, and can both supplement and complement other techniques, including remote unmoderated surveys and interviews, and in-person research.