Remote user research
We explore what remote user research is, its benefits and the methods you can use, plus remote user research tools to consider.
We all know that user research is essential, but meeting with users in person isn’t always possible. In these cases, remote user research can be a useful way to gather information about your target audience and learn about their needs and pain points.
If you’re interested in conducting remote user research but aren't surewhere to begin, you're in the right place. In this article, we explain what remote user research is, outline its benefits, and suggest some of the best remote user research tools to get you started.
What is remote user research?
Remote user research is a method of collecting feedback on user experience, needs, and pain points from participants who aren’t in the same physical location as you.
Instead of meeting in person, you can use video conferencing, screen-sharing, online survey software, and other research tools to gather insights from participants remotely.
This type of research is ideal in situations where participants can't be present in person, for example during the pandemic or when targeting users outside your location.
We can group remote user research into two main categories:
- Moderated research: This type of remote user research involves meeting virtually with participants in real-time. As a facilitator, you instruct participants on a series of tasks while collecting information about their behavior, and can ask them follow-up questions.
- Unmoderated research: Here, you give participants instructions to complete a series of tasks by themselves at their own pace, without your guidance. Sometimes, you can record sessions to review later.
Remote user research benefits
Conducting remote user research offers many benefits. This section highlights some of the primary reasons to consider building it into your product development process.
It's easy to organize
Compared to in-person research, it's easy to set up remote user research. You can manage a large group of participants without worrying about planning trips, accommodation, or organizing a research space.
You can also recruit test participants across different time zones and schedule meetings without being in the same location. Unmoderated testing is particularly flexible, as participants can complete tasks at their own pace and in their own space.
There are costs associated with setting up a physical research facility and transporting and accommodating participants. When going remote, you only need a suitable research tool, test participants, and a reliable internet connection.
Access to a large pool of research participants
Remote research provides an opportunity to get diverse ideas from different test participants. You're not limited to participants in your location alone. You can recruit people from any location and reach users with specific accessibility needs.
Participants are in a familiar environment
When participants are in an unfamiliar environment (like a research lab), it can affect the responses they provide. They might feel more compelled to give positive answers or behave differently when meeting in person.
With remote user research, participants are in their natural environment, such as their homes, offices, or a coworking space. This can make them feel more comfortable and help elicit more authentic responses.
It's time effective
Conducting remote research is less time-consuming than doing physical lab user research because it eliminates the need to coordinate with participants to travel to a physical location. In addition, there’s no need to set up a physical lab for user research, which can save time and resources.
Remote user research methodologies
When conducting remote user research, the choice of research methodology depends on the product development stage, the participants, and available resources. Here are some common methods you can use for remote user research.
Card sorting is a methodology where participants group topics or content into categories that make the most sense to them. You provide participants with labeled cards and ask them to sort them into categories.
This exercise can help you gain insights into the mental models of your participants, allowing you to understand their perspectives better. The insights can help shape the design and organization of your website or app to create a product that meets the expectations of your end users.
Card sorting can also help you understand how users think about and categorize information, which can aid in more effective navigation and information architecture when designing your product.
In preference testing, you present participants with multiple designs and ask them to choose the one they prefer. The goal is to identify design options that best meet the needs of end users.
Preference testing is particularly useful in the early stages of product development because it helps you gather feedback on design elements, such as layout, font, text, color palette, and logos. By understanding which design options your participants prefer, you can ensure that you tailor your product to meet the needs and expectations of your target audience.
Tree testing is a research methodology used to evaluate the ease of navigating and finding information within a website or application architecture. This process involves presenting participants with a tree-like structure that represents your website or application and asking users to perform specific tasks within the tree.
By recording participants' actions, you can analyze how easy or difficult it was to perform a particular task or find specific information. This data can help you optimize your website or application’s information architecture to improve user experience.
Prototype testing involves presenting a prototype of your website, application, or product to users for evaluation. Users interact with the prototype by completing a set of tasks and answering questions about their experience.
Prototype testing aims to gain insights into how real users interact with the product. It also helps you identify any usability issues in the early stages of product development.
Concept testing involves gathering feedback from users to validate product and design ideas. The purpose is to understand whether your product and or design concept appeals to your target audience.
This methodology is useful in the early stages of product development when you want to determine if your concept is worth pursuing further. By getting feedback from potential users, you can identify any issues or concerns they may have and make changes before investing too much time and resources.
User interviews are a research method used to gain qualitative insights into users' behavior and experiences. During the interview, you ask a series of open-ended questions to learn more about a specific topic of interest. The goal is to gather detailed information about users' needs, pain points, and motivations, as well as to understand their behaviors and attitudes towards a product or service.
You can analyze the data you collect from interviews to gain a deeper understanding of user needs and to inform product design decisions. User interviews are typically conducted in the early stages of product development, as they can be used to help shape user personas and user stories.
A focus group is a qualitative research method where you bring a group of participants together via video conferencing to discuss a specific topic or product feature.
During the session, you guide the conversation and collect participant feedback. This method is useful for generating insights and understanding diverse perspectives on a particular topic or product feature.
Online surveys involve gathering user feedback and information through a series of questions delivered and completed online. They allow you to collect a large amount of data from a wide range of users in a relatively short period.
Data collected through online surveys can help you gain insights into user preferences, behaviors, and satisfaction levels.
Usability testing is a research method that involves real users performing specific tasks on a website, application, or product to identify any usability issues. It’s aimed at measuring how easy or difficult it is for users to perform these tasks using your product.
5 top remote user research tools you should consider
When conducting remote user research, it's crucial to choose the right tools because the quality of your research is heavily reliant on the software you use.
To help you out, we've compiled a list of some of the top research tools you can use for remote user research.
UsabilityHub is a user experience platform that helps you validate your product with real users. It gives you access to various user research methodologies like card sorting, preference testing, prototype testing, and more.
UsabilityHub can help you:
- Understand how real users interact with your product.
- Uncover usability issues and improve users' experience of your product.
- Remove the guesswork from your design decisions.
- Create products that match the expectation of the end-users
UsabilityHub's panel also allows you to recruit research participants that match your target audience. The panel comprises over 530,000 panelists from more than 100 countries. It also has over 35 attributes you can use when picking the demographics of users you want to target.
Hotjar is an insights tool that helps you get feedback on how users interact with your product. It offers a wide range of features, including heatmaps, session recordings, surveys, and more that provide an analytic report of your user behavior.
These features can help give you behavior analytics and feedback data so you can understand how visitors interact with your website and pinpoint critical areas where you can improve.
UserZoom is a UX solution designed to help product teams gain insights into customer behavior. You can use these insights to optimize your products for better user experience.
With UserZoom, you can get actionable insights using mixed-method research, including video-based interviewing, tree testing, online surveys, click testing, and card sorting.
Maze helps product teams test their prototypes with real users to validate their designs. With this tool, you can capture early feedback from users about the accessibility of your product and gain more insight into the needs of your target audience.
This remote user research tool lets you conduct online surveys, usability testing, card sorting, tree testing, and prototype testing.
UserTesting is a customer experience platform that helps UX teams make customer-driven decisions. You can use it to validate ideas and ensure products meet the expectations of end users.
The platform is equipped with a human insight platform – a video-first feature that lets you see and hear how real people interact with your product and designs.
Remote user research participants
One of the crucial factors in conducting effective user research is recruiting the right participants. In this section, we'll highlight some of the best ways you can recruit people for remote user research.
Use a UX research participant panel
One of the fastest ways to recruit participants is by using a testing panel. A testing panel grants access to a pool of highly skilled and trained people who can provide detailed feedback that will guide your product in the right direction.
User testing platforms like UsabilityHub have access to a user research panel you can recruit from and get results in minutes, so it’s ideal when you’re looking to receive feedback quickly.
Recruit existing customers
You can recruit from your existing customers to take part in remote research and compensate them by offering discounts or free products or services. Some ideas for recruiting existing users include working with your customer-facing teams and inviting valued customers to join in a testing group, adding a pop-up on your website, or putting a call out in your email newsletters or on your social media channels.
Recruiting existing users for user research is an effective way to learn more about them and uncover ways to improve your product. However, it's not ideal for learning about new users.
Online forums and communities
You can recruit participants by reaching out via forums or communities in specific niches or areas of interest. With this recruiting method, you’ll need to screen, communicate, and schedule sessions with participants. It can also be a good idea to offer incentivisation to participants, like offering gift cards.
Ready to incorporate remote user research into your product development process?
Remote user research is an effective way to gain insights from real users without dealing with the constraints that come with in-person research. It's ideal for organizations of all sizes and at different stages of the product development process.
If you're ready to conduct your own remote user research, why not sign up for a free UsabilityHub plan today.
Frequently asked questions about remote user research
What is remote user research?
Remote user research is a method of collecting feedback on user experience, needs, and pain points from participants who aren’t in the same physical location as you. Instead of meeting in person, remote user research involves the use of video conferencing, screen-sharing, online survey software, and other research tools to gather insights from participants remotely. Remote user research can be divided into two categories, namely moderated research and unmoderated research.
What are the benefits of remote user research?
Remote user research offers several benefits, such as cost savings, increased accessibility, and the ability to gather more diverse and representative user feedback. Conducting research remotely eliminates the need to travel to specific locations, reducing travel expenses and allowing for a larger pool of participants. Additionally, remote research methods such as online surveys and video interviews make it easier to recruit participants from different locations and time zones. By gathering feedback from a more diverse range of users, remote research can lead to a better understanding of the needs and preferences of a wider audience.
What methodologies can you use for remote user research?
There are a variety of methodologies that can be used to conduct remote user research. These include remote moderated and unmoderated usability testing, remote user interviews and focus groups, surveys, card sorting and tree testing exercises, and prototype testing, preference testing, and concept testing.
Femi Oyelola is a B2B SaaS/Tech content marketing writer. He specializes in writing long-form content about marketing, ecommerce and product development. You can connect with him on Twitter or LinkedIn.