User research platform for modern product teams.
COVID-19 has changed our world. I’ve personally seen the changes it has had on the landscape of the in-person vs. remote testing debate.
Among other things, it has taught us how much we can get done without being in the same room, or building, or even city.
In-person research, by its very nature, requires close contact with participants. Many of us still feel a little uncomfortable being in close contact with strangers, especially if they cough or sneeze.
It’s simply more comfortable and convenient for everyone to do remote research. Even though there aren’t many social distancing requirements still in place, the clear winner is still to conduct your UX research via remote testing.
In-person testing comes in a variety of flavors.
Some companies have a research lab where participants come and enter the lab, sit at the table, and use the devices available to them there. The UX professional will sit with the participant in the room, look over their shoulder and observe, instruct, and ask them questions.
In this scenario there is typically a two way mirror where observers can watch without being seen.
Often times the observers include at least one UX professional who is taking notes on how the participant responds and performs. Other observers include stake holders and employees of the company being tested.
You don’t always need a usability lab though. Sometimes in-person testing simply happens in an empty room or conference room.
The value of running the test isn’t necessarily in the set up or location. It’s in listening to and learning from each participant. It’s in observing and noticing usability issues as they arise. It’s in understanding the participant's perspective.
Remote testing takes on different forms.
It can be a conference call or internet call where the user experience team and others who will be participating gather around a phone or computer where the participant is on the line.
Sometimes there’s a video stream and sometimes there’s not. It depends on the goals of the study.
Sometimes you’re simply conducting an interview or you could be screen sharing and instructing the participant to perform certain tasks. Everyone with a link can observe and listen to the participant in real time.
Other times, you put together the study and then open up the study for participants to run through the tasks while being recorded, answering any questions you prepared in advance. You then later view the study and the results.
And sometimes they’re not even recorded. You simply ask them to perform tasks and the software records their responses and success rates. When you log into the software you can see how many participants took part in your user study and the results.
Years ago a lot of people used to prefer and lean very strongly towards in-person testing. For years, this was the only type of usability tests we ran.
Each year the case for in-person testing becomes less and less strong. Our culture has shifted and we are now used to doing things online.
A lot of UX professionals still highly prefer in-person testing. But, there is a shift happening towards remote testing and COVID-19 has helped speed it up.
The biggest argument for in-person testing in 2023 is to do it when:
This list of arguments has shrunk over the years as technology and options for remote testing have improved and expanded.
Now more than ever, people have come to learn how to and even rely on doing things online.
Everything from your job to your children’s education to your doctor’s appointments can now all be done online. It’s only natural that user research might be as well.
Some arguments for remote testing in 2023 is to do it when:
It really depends on the goals and requirements for your study. Most of the time, you and your participants will probably be leaning towards some form of remote testing.
This is particularly true as platforms like [Empathetic](https://www.empathetic.io) become available where you can quickly and easily set up a user study, get data within the hour, and begin taking action within a day or two of starting the study.