Plan and prepare for successful remote usability tests

Inge Debleecker Inge De Bleecker
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Remote UX testing works best with a clear framework and guidelines

Remote usability testing has been gaining popularity across the globe in recent years as more companies embrace remote work. Remote UX testing offers companies a clear picture of their products’ digital experience and a rich understanding of their users’ expectations. Efficient and cost-effective, remote UX testing lets companies see how their applications perform in real-world conditions and situations. Starting with a plan that includes the goals and objectives for your usability study can help you derive the most value from remote testing.

Keys to planning and preparing successful remote usability studies

Start with a comprehensive framework that includes these elements:

The product to test and user flows in that product

Get all stakeholders on the same page: clearly state which product is to be tested and its primary purpose, as well as which functionalities, journeys and parts of the product are to be tested.

Context around the study

Help all members of the research team understand the study’s purpose. You may want to explain:

  • What business decisions will the results of the study influence?
  • What are the current hypotheses and assumptions?
  • Have previous studies been conducted? If so, share the results.

What is the primary reason for conducting the tests and how will the results guide potential business decisions?

Overarching goal

Tie the goal back to the context around the study: what is the primary reason for conducting the tests and how will the results guide potential business decisions? Some common goals for usability testing:

  • Create a benchmark to measure against later: A first usability study provides a strong starting point for companies seeking an initial overview of the quality of their work or evaluating new products.
  • Verify a hypothesis or assumption: Running usability tests is a good way to validate or reject hypotheses about specific issues or events, such as:
    • A high shopping cart abandonment rate in a specific country
    • A lower click-through rate following a recent release
    • An increase in negative customer reviews.
  • Support globalization/localization strategies: Companies working to launch or improve their products in specific markets can benefit greatly from conducting UX studies in those markets.
  • Validate a concept, feature or product: UX studies can show organizations whether their users understand a specific feature, a concept or even the general purpose of the product.

Ensure that you define a realistic goal for your usability study and that all stakeholders understand — and agree on — the goal.

Precise, actionable objectives

Develop precise questions or objectives related to the study’s main goal to help make the project more tangible. For example, if the goal is to understand the possible causes for a higher shopping cart abandonment rate on an e-commerce platform in a specific region, a set of precise objectives could be:

  • Learning whether users in that region consider the different payment methods available sufficient
  • Hearing how users feel about having to create an account to check out
  • Understanding if the buttons are placed in a way that users find intuitive

Type of study

Choose whether a moderated or unmoderated study best fits your project. Each methodology has its own benefits and drawbacks:

Moderated

Unmoderated

More time-consuming

Less time-consuming

More expensive

Cost-efficient

The researcher can guide and direct participants who misunderstand a task, providing real-time support

The instructions must be clear and explicit to eliminate any potential for misunderstanding

The researcher can ask participants to think aloud and share more about what they are doing

Researchers can ask testers to provide more details about specific aspects of the UX, but no one is observing whether participants really do so


Participant profile

Define the crucial characteristics of the target group and personas so you can recruit participants whose profiles match. Target groups can represent your current customer base or a new group of users you want to engage. Critical factors may include:

  • Demographic characteristics: Age group, gender, nationality, languages spoken, job, income, family status, location
  • Set up: computer web, mobile web, mobile app
  • Hobbies, habits and interests such as shopping or driving habits, interest in particular areas, the frequency of use of a specific website or service
  • Level of expertise and knowledge in specific fields

Benchmark score

Capture benchmark scores to help you better analyze your results after the study is completed. Objective benchmark scores are concrete results such as the task completion rate, while subjective benchmark scores reflect how users perceive and appreciate the product tested. Subjective benchmarking methods include tools such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS) or the task satisfaction rate.

Using this framework will help you prepare the content of the UX study itself so you can collect insightful user feedback that will help your organization make informed product decisions.

Well-planned and executed remote UX studies can guide customer-centric choices throughout the design and development process.

Learn more in the ebook “How to Plan and Prepare Remote Usability Tests.”

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