Remote Usability Testing: is it efficient? Main problems and solutions

Typically, in-presence usability testing is preferred over the remote version. But is it in-person testing really more effective?

The pandemic has completely changed almost everything – especially the way we work. With this drastic change, it is now essential to have systems in place that ensure effortless and seamless remote working. One such system, in the User Experience field, is the remote usability test. Typically, in-presence usability testing is preferred over the remote version – because it helps product teams interact with users physically, rather than experiencing the same virtually. But after the breakout of the pandemic, avoiding travels and gatherings became necessary. At this point we asked ourselves: is remote usability testing really effective?

With time, budget, and situational constraints, the remote usability test is extremely handy – rather than skipping the usability test altogether. So today, we’ll be talking about how effective it is, and can it be a substitute for in-person usability testing.
Do you know the difference between Usability testing and User testing? Find out more in this article

What is Remote Usability Testing?

Usability Testing is performed to understand if users or potential customers are able to use a service or product. It can be remote or in person, but also moderated or unmoderated. You can read more about the differences in this article.

Remote usability tests are usually done on the internet via video recording or videocalls. It is a great alternative to in-person testing and allows you to test a large number of people. Geographical constraints don’t come into the picture with remote tests, and you can easily test people across the world. Remote usability tests are a cheaper alternative as compared to in-person usability tests, too. Just imagine not having to bring the users to the lab (logistics, location, meals, etc), even more if you are running a Geo Testing (contact us to know more).

How Effective are Remote Usability Tests? 

Main issues and solutions

Remote usability tests are efficient as they allow participants to use their own computers for the study while allowing your team to view how they are working. This comes in very handy, as it gives a hands-on insight into your team as to how people work with their machines.

Additionally, you are also in a position to help participants resolve any issues that they may come across during the test. 

You can not only hire participants more easily but also get access to a large and diverse pool of participants. You’re sure to get more realistic data because the participants would attempt the test from the comfort of their homes. This response will be realistic, unlike the responses gained from an unrealistic environment like in-person testing.

Some might say that there will be missing information coming from the lack of facial expressions. However, it is possible to use both screen and face recording (using iterspace, for example). By doing this, UX Researchers will be able to analyze both verbal and non-verbal expressions. Voilà, problem solved.

And yes, you will save a lot of money too – in fact, remote usability tests allow you to get more testing done at a much lower price. For the same amount of time and money invested, you get a wide and diverse number of results. Remote testing allows you to expand qualitative results with quantitative data.


The last (and biggest) problem: managing the community

The biggest issues you might have are related to the community management:

  • finding the users (you need more users for remote user testing since the show up rate is lower)
  • keeping them motivated to follow the use cases (not skipping any use cases and/ or not delivering poor results)
  • not knowing if a session was completed, useful and insightful till the very end.

Luckily enough, there are ways you can work around these potential issues. What makes it easier is an engaged community of users and testers. If the community is vast, it won’t be a problem to find just the right number of users for the test. To keep them motivated and engaged, gamification is needed. In AppQuality, we have many activities to keep testers involved like training sessions, games, rankings, experience points, prizes, new roles and responsibility within the community, etc. Also, a fair retribution is crucial for good quality results. In this article, our Community Manager has shared some of our secrets to keep testers motivated and engaged.  


Can Remote Tests Work as a Substitute to In-person Tests?

Our experience in both remote and in-person tests confirms that YES, Remote Usability Tests are highly valuable and can substitute in-person testing. Given the situation we are in right now, remote usability tests are the best and only solution.

There are definitely some challenges that come along with remote usability tests – but once you used our tricks to pass those, remote tests are actually a great alternative. The remote usability tests, especially the unmoderated ones are very easy to carry out – without impacting the quality of results. The ‘remote culture’ is here to stay, and we need to adapt to it in the best possible way we can. And remote usability tests definitely help us get there.



UX Design, NNGroup, Hotjar

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