Remote User Research for insights in uncertain times

24 March 2020 - Stephen Denning

Remote research from the comfort of your home

We are certainly living through some unusual, uncertain and concerning times. Like many organisations around the country (and the world!) the team at User Vision are moving to a 100% remote protocol. We recognise the challenge that many organisations now face in establishing effective ways of working in this new, isolated work environment. And although in the short-term the situation is anything but “business as usual”, as time goes on establishing new ways of executing business as usual will become increasingly important.

For many organisations customer demand will not diminish, but there will be a greater need to serve these customers through digital touchpoints. For this reason, it is crucial that user research and user-centred experience design continues to be undertaken to ensure that the customers receive the best possible experience during this challenging time.

The role of remote

At User Vision we have developed a range of remote research methods over the years that are perfectly suited to the current situation, enabling organisations to ensure their users have an effective and positive experience of their products and services, even when they cannot access them face-to-face. These methods are designed to meet our clients’ various design needs:

1. I need to find out what our users think/need/want…

Many traditional customer needs research techniques can be executed in a remote situation. Surveys, interviews and even focus groups can all be conducted online, using a variety of online tools, with experienced moderators working to ensure that the conversations pull out the insights needed for the basis of a better experience design. We can recruit the right participants (either customers or non-customers), plan the research over remote workshops and manage every aspect of the research process, ensuring effective discovery of users’ needs and wants.

2. I need to understand why and how customers are using our site…

As customers rely even more on the digital touchpoints with a company, it becomes more important than ever to monitor their experience to gain a clear picture of:

  • Why users come to your site (intent)
  • What journeys they follow to perform these tasks
  • How successful they are in performing their tasks
  • What they would do if they do not succeed in their task
  • What type of user they are
  • How the tasks and success rates vary across different platforms, regions and time periods

We use “True Intent” studies to learn the tasks that your customers really want to perform and the journeys they follow to perform these. Visitors to the site are presented with a simple initial question about the reason for their visit. During their visit, their journey can be monitored using tools such as Google Analytics and Hotjar. After using the site they then answer a few follow up questions about their success, task difficulty, and the type of user they are.

Armed with solid quantitative and qualitative data, we gain a deep understanding of both their goals on the site and their behaviour which we can analyse and discuss with the client team to determine the most effective actions to improve the user experience.

3. I need to understand where usability problems exist, and how to address them…

While True Intent studies can alert us to the existence of problems, and where they may be occurring, to fully understand the nature of the issue, some form of usability evaluation must be undertaken. This can be achieved in three ways:

A. Expert review: Our team of consultants will draw on years of experience and industry best-practice to review a site and identify both positive and negative aspects of the user experience. Issues are prioritised based on impact on the user, and we provide clear, actionable recommendations for remedying them.

B. Remote usability testing: Our remote testing follows the same robust approach as our face to face testing, with targeted recruitment, expert moderation, consultation with the client between sessions, and clear feedback. Tests can be run on desktop, mobile or tablet devices, with users across the country or internationally. This qualitative approach provides deep insight into the current user experience and highly actionable insights to drive improvements.

C. Top Tasks: As we all know, websites have a tendancy to grow exponentially as different teams/departments create new content and services to share with the wider world. In times of crisis there's often a temptation to keep uploading content to update or renew messages and ways of working. This can all result in a complex and confusing information architecture that is driven primarily by orgnaisational needs, and not necessarily by understanding the priority tasks of your audiences. Our Top Tasks methodology is all undertaken remotely and will give your site a clear focus, allowing you to provide the right content for the tasks your customers actually want to perform, and to track their performance on those to make the user experience a measurable management metric.

4. I need to ensure my website is accessible to everyone

As digital will become a lifeline for so many over the coming weeks, and possibly months, ensuring that your site is designed for everyone to access it has never been more pertinent. Our accessibility audits, undertaken against WCAG 2.1, provide detailed and code-level reporting so you know exactly what to do to create an accessible site that is open for all of your customers.

Don’t isolate your insights

In times of change and uncertainty like this, it is tempting to pull down the shutters on your user research programs. However, this is when ensuring continuous improvement of your important digital touchpoints is most important.

Most of our clients have widely distributed customers, and for years we have helped deliver deep insights and better user-centred designs through these remote research methods.

To discuss how we can help your organisation stay ahead at this time, please get in touch.

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