Test outside the box: Capitalize on Remote Usability Testing

Crazydes - UX UI Design Studio
4 min readSep 24, 2020
Test and gather feedback on your ideas from anywhere

With the remnant of the pandemic looming over us all, teams all over the world have been adjusting the way they work to function optimally. Just like every other UX practice that has started to evolve during the pandemic, usability testing has successfully managed to adapt to the situation at hand.

How? Let’s start slow.

What is remote usability testing?

One of the biggest problems our UX team at Crazydes consistently face is recruiting people for onsite testing. With many others facing the same, remote usability testing has become a more popular and budget-friendly option. This involves testing your prototype with customers through virtual means in an environment of their comfort and in a different location from the facilitator.

The bottom line? You can stop begging your family to test your latest prototypes just because they’re the only ones who don’t need to socially distance themselves from you.

Onsite vs Online

What is the big difference? Well, onsite testing / traditional user testing involves setting up a testing environment where specifically recruited users can interact with a prototype of a product under the surveillance of user researchers. These researchers monitor and identify behavioral patterns of typical users that help the designers to improve upon the prototype. Onsite testing is ideal because it helps the tester to observe the users’ body language, ease of using it, ask plenty of follow up questions and also curb their actions when they deviate from generating
relevant data.

With or without the internet-Online v/s offline testing

Online / Remote testing, on the other hand, involves observing the user virtually while both the participant and the tester are in two different places. There is no predefined environment where both have to be present simultaneously. This can also be in the form of a recorded session that can be observed later by the testing expert.

The advantages:

This although not ideal to facilitate conversation or get comprehensive data about the users’ behavioral patterns, is a great way to get the job done when:

  • The budget is tight
  • The test subjects are particularly inaccessible
  • Many reviews have to be made within a limited timeframe

Moderated and Unmoderated remote testing

The testing environment and model can be adapted to fit the nature of your product/service and the insights you seek.

Sometimes it’s absolutely essential that a moderator/ facilitator be present(virtually) during the testing session to guide the participant through the process and assist them in case they encounter any difficulties. Moderated testing is also great to test complex flows and understand the mood of the participant through instant follow up.

To guide or not to guide: Moderated v/s Unmoderated testing

Unmoderated testing is perfect for validating concepts and receiving feedback or forming opinions quickly based on quantitative behavioral data from a large sample size from anywhere in the world, at any time. Without the restriction of time and space, participants can test your designs in their natural environment at a time and place of their comfort.

Testing tools to try out

(Low budget, Small teams, Easy to use)

We at Crazydes rely heavily on Google meet for our office discussions. It’s user friendly and is a great budget-friendly option with the only downside of lacking an option to record. Although they require a download and installation, the other options are Zoom, Skype, and GoToMeeting for a simple testing setup.

Know thy tools: Software is key to remote testing

Lookback.io also seems to be a trending tool with the USP of being a tool built for research, unlike others that double as video conferencing tools. (Additional features: Time-stamped notes, creating highlights and device flexibility)

Pearls of wisdom

The Nielsen Norman Group recommends 5 things to keep in mind while prepping for remote usability tests:

Practice with technology
Always be sure you attempt to mock-up a real test session with yourself as a participant on various devices to anticipate the glitches that may arise.

Pilot Test
Write possible scenarios (User flows) while testing to anticipate the clarifications that participants might need in an unmoderated session.

Be Present
Be available at least via email or phone to help with potential questions and troubleshoot if needed.

Account for Absentees
Recruit more than necessary. The best-case scenario: You’ll have plenty of data.

Brevity makes Sweetness
Keep your sessions short unless it’s absolutely necessary. Anything over 30 minutes may tend to wear your participants out.

There you go! We hope you enjoyed this article. If you have any tools or suggestions on Remote Usability Tests, please add them in the comments!