We asked our awesome research team to reveal their very own personal expert tips for running remote user research.

Whether you’re a newbie to the world of remote research and testing, or if you’re a seasoned pro looking for some trade secrets, our team delve into how you can deal with the myriad of inevitable technical issues, the importance of organization and basically how to let your natural people skills shine across video conferencing software WHILE juggling technology AND delivering valuable UX insights.

The following video contains the highlights, however there’s even more in-depth guidance from the team in the article below…

1) Organization is key

I would just say at its core, organization is key. Whether you’re setting up a study or transitioning to working remote instead of being in an office, it’s helpful to have some kind of rough structure to follow, so that you’re not totally lost. So if you can have your day structured with, “Okay. I’ve got these meetings, but I’m gonna fill the rest of my time with blah, take breaks here, etc” That’s always gonna be helpful.

And if you’re new to remote research, you’re gonna have to think about all these extra steps that you’re adding in, and it could be helpful to have those laid out. You’ll then have a quick reference guide, tailored to your own needs, on what to be prepared for when getting set up with remote research for the first time.

Caroline Garner, Sr UX Researcher

2) Allow your people skills to shine while juggling technology

I think that it’s not so much the implementation of your practices, your expertise, but the learning curve is in your comfort level with being able to employ all of these things while having that mediated through technology. So, I think that lots of researchers are natural ‘people’ people, they naturally ask good questions, but I think that the learning curve is allowing that to shine while you’re juggling a few other technological things at the same time.

Julie Strubel, User Researcher and Strategist

3) Pay for the best possible internet connection

There are a host of technical obstacles that you really, really need to pay attention to because it can interfere with your sessions, it can interfere with your data collection. I would say probably at the top of the list would be pay really close attention to your network.

I personally, for the last eight years that I’ve been remote, have paid extra for a business connection from the cable company and that often provides a more reliable upload/download and you get a better response from the cable company should your cable go down.

Other little tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years is at the start of every day, unplug your modem, unplug your router, plug them back in, just to reset everything. It never hurts and a lot of time it can reduce any interference issues you have.

Also, you might want to restart your computer in-between each session. Limit the number of other applications that you have running in the background. Things that people forget about sometimes are, if you have some sort of cloud file-syncing going on in the background, that can chew up a lot of your bandwidth sometimes.

John Romadka, Senior Manager, UX Research

4) Good audio is really important
5) Buy noise cancelling headphones
6) Get a good quality microphone

Audio is really important. Poor audio is really a killer. If you can’t hear the pronunciations of things, you have to ask for them to repeat themselves. And so a good pair of noise-canceling headphones, if you can get them. Make sure you have a good quality mic.

John Romadka, Senior Manager, UX Research

7) Pay attention to your lighting

I go out of my way to make sure that I have good lighting from several different sources so that my person is distinguished from the background. Pay attention to what’s in the background. Don’t make them squint or be in shadow. Don’t have a big bright window behind you. Think of it as if you’re on stage.

John Romadka, Senior Manager, UX Research

8) Position your webcam to one side

With remote research, it’s a bit more difficult to make it friendly, to build rapport with a participant. So I think one thing that helps a lot is positioning your laptop camera towards one side, more or less at 90 degrees. That, I think, helps a lot with making it less confrontational, less like a job interview, more like an informal conversation between two people. I think that’s something that I always do now and it helps a lot.

AJ Justo, Senior UX Researcher

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9) Acknowledge the likelihood of technical errors
10) Tell users not to be scared to report technology issues

In terms of getting people a little bit more comfortable when doing remote research, I would say you could do all the same things as you do in person. You might even acknowledge that since it’s a little bit more technical, that introduces more room for error. So you can tell them ahead of time that, if the connection drops I might ask you to repeat yourself, or don’t be scared to tell me if things freeze on my end.

You could tell the participant, if they’re a little bit more technical, that they can get a hold of you through the chat. Just set the stage ahead of time, letting them know that “Things can happen. I’m here to help. Don’t be scared to speak up if something is a little bit confusing.” And then just let them know that you’re a vulnerable party too and it’s not just them being scrutinized and everything must be perfect.

It’s kind of the same deal for all of us, especially now with everyone being online. Everyone has a weak connection and we’re all going through the same stuff together.

Caroline Garner, Sr UX Researcher

11) Make back-up plans for any likely technology breakdown

I think I did know this, but I was probably not prepared enough for the degree to which technology will breakdown in every instance that it’s possible to do so. And so, working in backup plans for every likely break in technology you can plan for is, or has always been, super essential. Being remote, you’ve got all these different people using their own technology, that you have no control over in a lot of cases.

So you quickly identify the places where it’s probable that you’re going to have issues, and then you have to build for those issues. It depends a lot on the specific tools you’re using, but going through that process a few times is essential.

Cody Roscaso, Manager, UX Research

12) Do not be afraid to troubleshoot
13) Know your toolset well and practice

Do not be afraid to troubleshoot. But that also means know your toolset, know your toolset well. Practice the tools that you’re using, so that you’re able to help people and troubleshoot quickly.

People really appreciate quick, direct help without a whole bunch of hedging. Just being able to say, “Hey, let me help walk you through that.” And then have ready a list of initial simple questions like, “Did you turn it on and off?” Always start with the basics. Don’t be afraid. Have that list of basics to just use quickly in a pinch before you get into the more complicated issues. Assume it’s the easy stuff because 80% of the time, it is. And then don’t be afraid to ask for help yourself.

Julie Strubel, User Researcher and Strategist

14) Adopt every new technology you possibly can
15) The more variety in your toolbelt, the stronger you’ll be online

I think the advice I would have given myself back when I started doing this all the time is just adopt everything, like literally be a trier. Never quit, I want you to move through the frustration. Try, try, try again, because you’ll find when you’re adopting new technology or you’re adopting new techniques, things will feel awkward for like a hot minute and then they’ll become second nature. And the greater variety of things you can get in your tool belt, the stronger you’ll be online.

Julie Strubel, User Researcher and Strategist

16) Have each other’s backs

Don’t forget to do your own self-care, give yourself plenty of breaks. We got each other’s backs and I hope that’s the case with you and your own team environment, especially when everyone’s in the same boat. We’re all being quarantined at home or stuck at home. We’re looking out for each other. I think we all have an understanding of everyone’s circumstances and it’s okay to be transparent with your coworkers, even with your boss. Hopefully you are able to support each other when someone can’t pick up the slack, or be able to step in and help out whenever you can.

We’re just really blown away with how many people are offering helping hands in any way they can. And the same is true with your team, your UX team. Help each other out and have each other’s backs.

Gowa Mainini, Senior UX Researcher