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March 31, 2020

UX: how to go from face to face studies to remote studies?

Originating with remote user tests, Ferpection then broadened its offer with Face-to-Face Study Methodologies in response to the needs of our clients. Today, in a lockdown situation, conducting face-to-face studies is no longer an option, and many of you must move on to remote studies. The following is our advice based on our experience to make this transition as smooth as possible.

We will deal with remote studies in 2 categories:

  • those moderated in real time, i.e., with a facilitator or moderator to lead the discussion and ask the users questions

  • and those that are post moderated. There are several possible solutions, we will talk more specifically about the remote user tests we are implementing at Ferpection, since it is obviously the one we know best, but the advice can be applied to other methodologies.

1. Moderate Real-time Studies

More specifically, we are going to talk about one-on-one interviews, although most of the topics we will address also apply to sessions with several users, of the focus group. Here is some advice:

  • First, make sure the user has a good internet connection on the day of the event. It may sound silly, but it is true, in one instance the participant was at work and did not have a Wi-Fi connection. You can also arrange a quick test with the user a few minutes before the scheduled interview.

  • Choose a tool that is not overly constraining for the user. For example, creating an account or installing software can put off some people, especially those who are less comfortable with digital technology. In any case, this profile will be lessened with this methodology, but you might as well mitigate this effect. In practice, we can recommend Google's Meet which has the advantage of working without plug-ins for the user, or Zoom which requires the user to download once, but offers interesting features and better sound stability. Further details on the difference between these two tools, depending on your needs, can be found in this article illustrated by the summary table below. 
Tableau des principales fonctionnalités Google Hangouts vs Zoom

  • The focus will obviously be on the user, but you must also be well equipped to make the user feel comfortable and confident. The same advice that applies to remote working therefore applies: sit in a quiet environment where you will not be disturbed, remember to check your microphone and make sure you are well positioned in front of the webcam. Nice and centered, occupy the camera space, without being too close and without being backlit so that your face can be clearly seen. It's more reassuring for the user :) 

A bit of advice: if your laundry is drying in the living room, or if you have to make your call in the bathroom (hello Parisian studios), Zoom offers a feature that allows you to change your "landscape" in the background.

exemples d'une webcam bien placée et d'une webcam mal placée

  • During the session, you will be focused on the screen sharing of the prototype or on what the user tells you. So, think carefully, either to record the session or to have a colleague also connected who will play the role of an observer and/or note taker (microphone off, no interruptions). This will allow you to have notes for your analysis, and to be able to observe the user's facial expressions or to have your colleague's notes on them. At the beginning of the interview, also remind the user to describe out loud what he or she is doing and seeing, since it will be more difficult for you to follow the user's vision and actions.

  • If you are in the prototype phase, remember to work carefully and finalize your mock-ups (even more than usual) especially in terms of possible interactions. You will not be next to the user to help him if a link has been forgotten on Invision for example, or to get him out of a poorly programmed screen loop. It is therefore necessary to ensure that navigation is as smooth as possible, even during an advanced testing stage, otherwise your user could get stuck. In short, it is better to test fewer screens, but to make sure they are all well set up.

For recruitment, writing the guide and analysis is no different from face-to-face methods. 

2. Post moderated user tests

As mentioned in the introduction, this part is based on the user tests methodology that we set up at Ferpection, via our platform. How does it work? The user follows a test protocol initially drafted by our experts. He will perform the test in his usual environment, on his own device, and send his feedback on our platform for each step of the protocol. Each feedback is explained and detailed in writing by the user, and illustrated either by a screenshot or a short video. You can find more information about the remote user testing methodology on our website.

Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind if you decide to implement this solution:

  • Make sure you define the desired journey and frame the protocol (without being too directive, of course). The objectives given to the user must therefore be clear and specific, because you will not be able to put the user back on the right path if he leaves the course that you are interested in.

However, be careful not to channel his feedback. Always prefer to give situations specific objectives, rather than actions: For example, "you want to find a flowered dress for this summer", rather than "browse the menu to find a flowered dress".

  • Nonetheless, it is necessary to accept that the user sometimes gets a little lost, goes off course, and gives feedback on subjects other than those identified. This remains interesting and can sometimes put other findings into perspective. For example, you didn't want any feedback on your special promotion page, but the user went there anyway. This may mean that the information is properly, or even too much, highlighted and affects the visibility of other elements that the user has not seen.

exemple de vignette produit avec plusieurs promotions

  • Typically, compared to a more "free-flowing" interview, post-moderated tests will focus on the user's path. So, don't hesitate to use pre or post-test questions to get more background information on the user: his habits, the stores he shops at, his family situation, etc.

  • You can use videos to add material to your analysis, but we do not recommend this for all users, as without a moderator there will be no user interaction. It will therefore be less natural for him to comment out loud than when he does so in a face-to-face interview. Moreover, you must keep in mind that this will considerably increase your analysis time, for a contribution of information that will not be proportional.

  • Finally, it is important to remember that each methodology has its advantages and disadvantages, and that no single on is perfect! As we like to say at Ferpection, "choosing a study is choosing its biases". With a post moderated test, you lose spontaneity and behavioral analysis, but expressing yourself in writing encourages the user to be clearer and give more detail.

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Anais Valentin

Anais Valentin

Anais is Marketing manager and leverages her expérience as UX Researcher to evangelize all-things UX related.
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