5 Tips for Conducting Effective Remote User Research

“If you build it, they will come – once you do the proper user research.”

To receive critical information about the users, tasks and goals, user research conducted at the beginning of a project is detrimental to an effective user experience. Not only does proper initial user research help you learn about your users needs, it also:

  1. Can save your company money by understanding and identifying problems before actual production begins. Once into production, unforeseen changes and edits may become costly.
  2. Can generate more revenue, if you understand a need and can solve it effectively and timely, users will WANT to use it, over and over again and recommend the product to a friend
  3. Can give you an advantage over your competitors. if you do the proper user research combined with market research, you can identify and solve a problem better than your competitors.

Remote user research is a great way to obtain fast, interactive qualitative data when strapped for time and under a tight budget. Questionnaires and surveys are effective options to obtain feedback and get data within a week. Online tools like Google Docs, Survey Monkey, Mail Chimp or just plain emails or even phone interviews are all great choices that typically includes a set of questions used to find out the preferences, attitudes, and opinions of your users on a given topic. The information that is collected will provide analysis that can be used for user experience implementation to inform your product as you move along.

The next 5 tips for writing questions and conducting research will help you avoid any errors in your test plan, saving you the time and hassle of having to re-do faulty research. Make these your go-to guide for error proof remote user research in 2017.

1. Have a Plan

  • Have an Intro Prepared & Brief the participants

Introduce who you are and the reason they are being interviewed. Help them understand that their identity or information will not be shared with any 3rd parties. It is also crucial to outline that there are no wrong or right answers when they are completing the survey, honest, candid feedback is them most effective method. If you are recording the session, make sure you make this clear and agreeable before they begin.

  • Create Templates

To help expedite the research process, it’s always beneficial to create templates to base your user research process from. These can range from user research intro outlines, questionnaire templates, follow up templates and data collection templates.

  • Recruit participants

This can be the trickiest. Typically it is the most effective to use actual users of the projected demographic. This way you can collect real data that is highly useful and not fake data that does not align with your actual user reach. A lot of online testing sites offer to recruit users for you such as usertesting.com or optimalworkshop.com at a fee. Otherwise you can recruit users by using craigslist, tap into your clients email database or use a 3rd party testing recruiting company. Testing superusers, trainers, admins, fellow work mates or friends may not deem to the actual user and in the end hurt results since they are not accurate. Finally, always offer an incentive to participate. People are busy with their lives, give them a reason to want to complete the survey or questionnaire.

2. Speak to your User

  • Position questions in a understandable way for the target user

Make sure your test participants understand what you’re asking them to do. This is important for measuring task success. If you are going to ask respondents to self-report on whether they successfully completed a task, it’s imperative that you define exactly what success looks like.

Tell your test participants exactly what successful completion will look like, so they don’t have to wonder whether or not they completed the task successfully.

  • Don’t lead them on

The way you word the question can skew your test participant’s responses. Be careful to keep your questions neutral and non-biased.

In this case don’t try to be so positive or sunny, it’s ok to be neutral and un-biased. 

Bad example: How much do you love this app?

Good example: On a scale of 1-5 (1=Strongly Dislike, 5=Strongly Like), how much do you like or dislike this app?

3. Less is more

  • Ask one question at a time

In general people are doing this in their spare time for a small incentive. Make it quick, effective, interesting and tailored to them to keep answers candid and engaged.

  • Break up tests into 2 groups if excessive amounts of questions

If there are more than 10 questions, try and break it up into 2 surveys for 2 different groups. If the questionnaire or survey becomes to feel long, you will lose engagement and have unanswered questions which will throw off the qualitative percentages. 

  • Prioritize questions at hand

Take a deep look at your questions, are they all necessary? Are you asking the same questions but in a different way? Do’t be afraid to cut content if it allows the user to engage quicker.

  • Use plain language

Use easy to understand language and adjectives. Getting clever with vocabulary is not necessary when conducting user research, especially remote when you cannot clarify to them the meaning on the spot.

4. Test Before you Launch

  • Run a simple pilot study to check for errors

It’s always a good idea to test before launch to scan for inefficiencies. Send it to a couple workmates to get their eyes and opinions on it. If the question deems faulty once the survey is launched, all relative data received will be flawed and disregarded.

5. Un-biased Assessment of Qualitative Data

  • How to break data down & understand it

Whether you are collecting the data manually, from a online resource or from a campaign distributor such as mail chimp/survey monkey, it is important to create a excel/spreadsheet with the users main points to then compare and contrast to other answers. It is helpful to find common answers, create overall percentages of metrics of success that (you have defined previously) and also define main pain points to help define the overall pain point and then develop the main KPIS of how to solve those – Then use that to build upon the core of the products goals through the process of creation and deliverables.

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