What is Remote Usability Research?

by Ethnio. Average Reading Time: about a minute.

Let’s start off by answering the question you probably came with. The short answer is: any kind of research where the user and research moderator aren’t interacting face-to-face.

So why do you care?

Well, take a look at how most research is currently done. When you want to learn about how people perceive and interact with websites or software or real-world devices, you design a study based on what you need to find out. Problem is, the logistics of actually talking to these people in person can get really, really hairy, especially if you’re working on any kind of a budget or a deadline. Say you wanted to conduct interviews with visitors to your website from across the country, or even from foreign countries; or say you didn’t have money to hire a recruiting agency to find a dozen qualified users to talk to.

So here’s where remote research comes in–with the tools, online services, and old-fashioned ingenuity that folks in the UX biz have come up with in the past couple of years, now practically anybody can conduct real, valid studies without an enormous R&D budget or a million dollar on-site testing facility. What’s more, there are a lot of benefits to testing remotely: allowing clients to participate, testing users in their native environments, getting better and more realistic feedback, getting automatically recorded sessions, bypassing recruiting agencies, and more.

Of course, there are a lot of things to learn about this new field of research; this blog is for people who want to learn more.

And by the way, hi! We’re Bolt|Peters, a research and design company located in San Francisco, specializing in remote research methodologies. We test everything from video games to medical websites to industrial design software, and with seven years of experience under our belts, we’ve worked with the likes of Sony, Greenpeace, CNN, AAA, Time Warner, Oracle, Autodesk, and more. Maybe you’d be interested in doing a bit of remote research? Check us out.