PRACTICAL TIPS FOR REMOTE USABILITY TESTING

 

PART A – BEFORE TESTING

 

1) Research your testing platform and make sure it fits your needs

When I conducted my first usability testing on Skype, I sadly realized that once the participant shared their screen on their mobile device, the front-facing camera was automatically disabled. Not being able to observe the user’s reactions was very impractical and the testing results were not as accurate.

Can the tester share their screen? Is the front-facing camera still enabled while they do that? Can you record the session? Does it work on mobile?

Gather all the information you need so you don’t encounter surprises while testing.

 

2) Understand on which device you want to test

Choosing the right device to perform the session is important since it has to be aligned with your testing objectives. For example, testing a prototype designed for mobile, on a desktop device, might not give you accurate results, since the interactions are very different.

 

3) Screen size matters

Conducting usability testing on the participant’s mobile device can be tricky, as the varying screen sizes might affect the way your prototype is displayed on their screen.

In order to avoid any surprises, send an email a few days in advance, asking each participant about what mobile device they will be using. This will allow you to adapt the prototype to each screen size. It is more work, but it will bring you more accurate results.

 

4) Test your prototype beforehand

There’s nothing worse than starting your usability testing and noticing basic mistakes that could have totally been avoided. It is useful to borrow a fresh pair of eyes from one of your colleagues or friends, and test your prototype beforehand.

NOTE: In case it is too late and you already started the usability testing, do not change your prototype mid-way! Your results would not be reliable anymore. You can either continue with the existing prototype or make the changes and start all over again.

 

5) Instruct the testers about the technical details

With remote usability testing, it is essential that the participants know the technical details required, in order for the session to run smoothly. Make sure you send them an email beforehand, informing them about all aspects that they need to consider. Stay away from super specific vocabulary and complicated guiding.

 

6) Don’t overwhelm the testers with difficult tasks

Usability testing participants will never have the same motivation as real users when it comes to completing a task. You have to keep in mind these 2 options in order not to overwhelm them:
Build up the difficulty of the tasks, start with the easy ones, and increase the difficulty as they go.
Break up the bigger tasks into smaller parts.

 

7) Prepare for the worst-case scenario

(For section 5 I was inspired by one of the Medium’s articles here in the “Have a backup plan” section )

Sometimes it’s just one of these days when the testing software does not work, the audio would just not start, or the internet connection is too slow. It is important, in these scenarios, to not panic and have alternatives readily available:

  • Keep a charger and a pair of headphones nearby.
  • Switch to Zoom, Skype, or Google Hangouts in case you encounter problems with your initial testing platform.
  • Have the tester’s email address or phone number in case you need to reach them.
  • Keep a list of all your links by your side.

 

PART B – DURING TESTING

 

1) Remind the testers there is no right or wrong

Participating in usability testing can sometimes be intimidating. Make sure you communicate to the participants that they are not the ones being put on the test. There can be no wrong moves.

 

2) Don’t underestimate the power of warm-up questions

Before jumping into the background and open-ended questions, make sure you ask a couple of warm-up questions. Asking a bit about themselves, or about their top 3 favorite apps, will make the participants open up and get into the testing mode.

 

3)Record the session

It’s hard to remember everything that happened during the testing, since you are busy observing the tester’s reaction, following their process, asking follow-up questions. The best solution is to record the session and review it later.

NOTE: Make sure you have a signed consent form from each participant before you start the usability testing!

 

4) Let testers read the tasks at their own pace

Each person has their own speed when it comes to reading and understanding the task that they have to perform. Instead of reading the task out loud, display it on the screen, and give them a minute to read it.

 

5) Observing the reactions requires extra engagement

It can be challenging to pick up on micro-expressions and social cues when you’re on a video call. You’ll have to put in extra effort to observe the tester’s reactions. Eliminate distractions such as a browser cluttered with opened tabs and mute your notifications.

 

6) Do not help testers when getting stuck

If they can’t figure out the task by themselves, give them space. Instead of giving them directions, answer their question with another question.

 

7) Measure the time spent on each task

Knowing how long it takes to complete a task is a valuable insight and will help you analyze the results. Make sure you don’t interfere with the testers while they are completing each task.

 

8) Final thoughts and feedback

Ask the testers if they have final thoughts about their experience. There might be some valuable feedback that you don’t want to miss out on.

 

 

 

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