While the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting the entire world, the need for software manufacturers and product teams to move forward has caused a rise in the need for effective remote usability testing. Over the last two years, we here at Dupla Studios have moved approximately 80% of our usability testing to remote methods. Certainly, there are types of research methods that are not well served through remote testing. However, discount usability on software products has no need to slow their delivery even in these troubling times.

 

Remote testing is ideal for some work

Remote testing is ideal for testing UI that has already been released. It can work extremely well for Benchmarking or Baselining products already on the market. There is no IP to steal, and with screen sharing software such as WebEx, Dscout, Userzoom, and others, participants can experience and manipulate the applications or services without having to have the computer horsepower or install foreign applications on their home or work devices. Many organizations block their employees from installing anything on their work-owned computers.

 

Picture-in-Picture provides facial reactions to tasks and issues, although usually not all the non-verbal cues as in a live session. Usually, that is enough to identify areas that the product is lacking or presents challenges or difficulties.

How can remote testing help product teams

This data allows you to create a heat map of the product in its current state. Product heat maps help prioritize the work that product teams have on their plates. Learning about the number and type of existing problems helps make decisions that will improve the product and make your customers happier and build loyalty.

However, Benchmarks and Baselines are not the only types of research you can do remotely. Running a forum with target users, or asynchronous investigations can take place without time or location constraints. Surveys, for example,  would fall under this category as well. We have also done some early prototype testing before deciding on the direction of a given user experience.

IP in the remote testing world

I took part in an online discussion a few days ago. A colleague pointed out that, testing proprietary UI, where the experience is the differentiator for your space, may not be wise to test remotely. The reason exemplifies the inherent risk in online testing. Once the participant is seeing the UI on their devices and computers, control of the IP is put at risk. Even with an NDA, there is a chance that someone nearby may see and steal the information. There are other cases where remote testing is not as effective, but that is another topic.

Remote testing is not valid for every question you might have, but there is no reason that physical separation needs to slow your organizations’ delivery of their products even during this challenging time. Good luck and keep those insights coming!