Remote, Synchronous User Research For International Usability


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This case study presents the opportunities of carrying out remote, synchronous user research for international studies. Remote research is an extremely appealing proposition for the myriad of fast, innovative, small and medium firms marketing their online services and web applications to an international audience. But it could also be used by large corporate organisations to carry out more frequent user research programs.

Remote synchronous user research can include semi-structured interviews, user observations and usability testing methods. Online conferencing tools are now widely accessible and they offer audio conferencing, desktop sharing, chat and audio and video recording. In this case study, user research complemented the agile development of an online keyword research tool with a broad international audience. The goal of the first stage was to gather the requirements for the user experience redesign. The goal of the second stage was to gather feedback on the interface prototypes. Remote, synchronous user research requires thorough preparation, as traditional research does, but presents additional technical challenges: testing in advance the users’ system configuration, having a procedure for technical troubleshooting and involving stakeholders in the research as remote observers. Remote user research will never substitute contextual inquiry and usability testing, but it presents unique opportunities: it doesn’t require a research facility, it decreases travel costs and times, it can make it easier to involve specific, time poor audiences and it allows user research across the world.

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Remote, Synchronous User Research For International Usability

  2. 2. Outline  Introduce case study Methods Process  Guidelines  Benefits and challenges
  3. 3. Remote, synchronous user research Definition:  “A facilitator interacts with a participant who is remote and leads the research activities in real time” E.g. Remote usability testing
  4. 4. … vs. remote & asynchronous Definition  “Observers do not have access to the participants in real time, and there is no facilitator interacting with them during data collection” Also called „unmoderated‟ E.g. Usability Analytics, remote card sorting
  5. 5. Case study  Online keyword research firm Search Engine Optimisation and Pay-Per Click ~10 years on the market 60% US 40% Europe
  6. 6. Challenges  Unique challenges By developers, for developers  Additional features bolted on, no evolution Evolution of the user base  Small web agencies, internet start-ups, one man bands Difficult to involve representative users
  7. 7. Remote Desktop Sharing © TechSmith
  8. 8. Remote desktop sharing tool Video Audio Notes Price X £ X ££ £££ Only US and Canada!
  9. 9. The process User Design Usability research • Rapid evaluation • Semi- development • Redesigned structured homepage interviews • Redesigned • Observation main user flow • Qualitative • Qualitative analysis evaluation 2 weeks 2 weeks 2 weeks
  10. 10. Remote User research: Semi-structured interview  One-to-one User  Flexible interview research protocol  Prompts: Sample demographic Work practices Other keyword research tools
  11. 11. Remote user research: observation  Prompts to tasks Think-aloud protocol User research  Direct advice  Master-Apprenticeship model learning by practical experience as if „apprentice‟
  12. 12. Degree of confidence with the participant Feedback Observation Interview Demographics Introduction & Set up
  13. 13. Remote usability evaluation  Perceptions and User Usability expectations from the research evaluation homepage  Usability test of prototype of the keyword research tool
  14. 14. Achievements  Immediate improvements to the user experience  A rich model of users‟ work process  A set of research-based personas
  15. 15. Be prepared  Test your workstation  Invitation and incentives  Scheduling the sessions  Technical troubleshooting  Remote observers: pros and cons
  16. 16. Test your workstation Desktop sharing Screen capture software Audio recording
  17. 17. Invitation and incentives Invitation Schedule Confirmation Session Thank You + incentive + Consent
  18. 18. Scheduling the session Dear XXX, My name is Giorgio Venturi and I am a user experience consultant working with YYY to improve their customer user experience. Would it be convenient for you to have our interview today, 1.30pm EST? It will last about 1 hour. Alternatively, please advise us on another time. Please find attached the consent form
  19. 19. Troubleshooting  Hi XXX YYYY, Thank you for your confirmation. The interview will begin today at 1.30pm EST (6.30 GMT) and it will last about 1 hour.  The session will require desktop sharing with audio and video recording. We would like to record the session in order to analyse it in depth at a later time. The recording will be used only internally within XXXX XXX and it will not be used for any other purpose. Please confirm if you are comfortable with this. The interview session will require: 1. A PC or Mac, 2. A broadband connection 3. A landline number or alternatively Skype When you receive this email, please check if your system is ready for desktop sharing At the meeting's start time click the following link to join Your free 3 months subscription to XXXX YYYY will we activated within 1 week. …
  20. 20. Remote observers: pros and cons Pros Cons  One or more  Can reduce observers confidence  Immediate impact  „Educated‟ on design team observers  At a distance
  21. 21. Benefits  No research laboratory  Cost & timings  Real context of use  High-value, time-poor user segments  International research on a budget  Well complements agile, rapid development processes  Do not differ too much from „presence research‟
  22. 22. Challenges  Lack of non-verbal and environmental cues  Not easy to manage the interpersonal dynamics across cultural and linguistic barriers
  23. 23. Conclusions  Share a case study Process Methods  Tips  Benefits and challenges  Remote synchronous methods are an appealing proposition for both small and large firms
  24. 24. What next?  Handouts & Templates 
  25. 25. Q&A GRAZIE! Questions?