Experience flow, interaction, user journey, usability, accessibility… These are just some of the things that you can test through remote user research before moving on (and investing time and money) to the development stage. 

Not only does remote testing help you identify and solve problems, but it also helps you achieve a solution that pleases the user in more ways than just aesthetically.

woman working on laptop

Through remote testing, you can obtain results from real users in an agile way, while determining exactly the amount of data you need with minimal budget constraints. However, properly planning your sessions is key to make sure your remote testing generates successful results

In this article, we’ll cover the steps you should go through when designing your remote testing sessions, with a focus on writing your brief and planning your user recruitment

Defining your goals 

Planning your remote testing will help you to define objectives and who your participants are. This is essential to determine which tools you will use, how you will find your users and what kind of tasks you need to prepare for the sessions. 

By defining your goals at the beginning of the process and writing them down on a brief, along with the basic details that will guide your testing process, you will be able to share clear guidance with your team, if you work within one, or any third-party recruitment agencies. At the very least, having a brief will help you work in a more structured way, even if you are running the testing and analysing the data by yourself.

As part of the People for Research webinar series, we interviewed UX expert Adam Babajee-Pycroft, from Natural Interaction, who said: “remote moderated research delivers the same value” as in-person sessions. A bold statement, but a true one nonetheless… as long as the sessions are properly structured. 


For an in-depth, practical guide to successfully planning and conducting Remote Moderated Research check out our free-to-download, comprehensive ebook:

Download ‘Remote Moderated 101’


What are you testing?

Part of the planning is to define what you are testing, as the type of questions you are trying to answer with remote design testing will affect the level of fidelity of your UX designs: it may be a quick and rough sketch, a structural wireframe, or an interactive and refined prototype, depending on the design’s visual detail and amount of functionality.

Ideally, your test should be up to 30 minutes long (although you can run them up to 60 minutes, but be aware that this means increasing the incentive to make sure the users remain engaged) and consist of three to five straightforward tasks with a clear beginning and end. This is based on feedback we have received from members of our online community regarding their experiences with remote testing.

Type of session and tool(s)

Both options have advantages and disadvantages, but in an ideal world they complement each other and should be adopted at different stages of the process. Moderated sessions are ideal at the early scoping stages of a project, when you are still analysing the problem and potential solutions, and trying to find the answers for the underlying questions people may have.

According to ecommerce expert Paul Randall, Lead UX Designer at Clarks: “however, the further you progress into a project, the more unmoderated tests come into their own because of the speed in which you can turn them around. You can make quick changes and study them ad-hoc within a day; and at much lower cost than a moderated test would be.” 

While remote moderated research allows you to gain more valuable insights and provides you with the chance to explore topics of interest with the participants, unmoderated remote tests are the most financially viable if you require the feedback of large numbers of participants or need to run regular rounds of testing. 

The tool(s) you will select for your testing sessions will depend on your goals and the fidelity level of your designs. As Becca Kennedy says in her post on UX prototype testing, “when it comes to testing prototypes with users, not all prototype testing tools are created equal.” 

It’s likely that you are using a well-known tool like inVision, Axure or Marvel to create your prototypes, which means you need to find a remote testing tool that is not only user-friendly on the participant’s side, but also compatible with the prototyping platform being used. UserZoom, for example, is one of the tools you can use: once a prototype is accessible via a browser that’s all that’s required to get a study up and running. 

Finding the right users

We’ve already established that remote research, especially unmoderated, allows most people – even the niche audiences – to give their opinion and have their voices heard, regardless of their schedules or location. However, if you are unable to get the right participants for your sessions via your testing platform or an online self-serve panel, recruiting your own users can be a real challenge. 

There are a few user recruitment options available:

  • Self-serve online platforms
    Best if you have a tight budget/deadline and a generic persona/audience. Not the right fit if you are looking for a niche type of user.  
  • Your own panel of users/customer data
    Best if you have quality data and a group of people who have provided you with informed consent to be contacted for the purpose of research or testing. Can be quite time-consuming and challenging if you don’t have the right structures in place to recruit them yourself.
  • User recruitment agency
    Working with a recruitment is the best solution if you don’t have the time/resources to do the recruitment yourself or if you have niche recruitment requirements. Although it requires a bit more budget than using a self-serve online platform, it doesn’t mean a huge investment. Finding the right users to take part is especially important if you are running self-moderated research. “Unless they’re a bit weird, most people don’t sit and talk to themselves all day. This makes it hard for test participants to keep up the required monologue,” Jakob Nielsen says.

For an in-depth and entertaining guide to successfully recruiting the ‘right’ participants for user research, download our comprehensive new ebook:

Download ‘Participant Recruiting 101’


What’s next?

So, you’ve got your initial planning down, you selected your type of session and the perfect tool(s) to test your design and, finally, you have the perfect users. There’s only one more step to complete before you can actually run the sessions: don’t forget about testing your software

Any potential issues should be detected at this stage to make sure the sessions run smoothly. Not only does this process help you build rapport with your participants and increase attendance, but it will also help the users feel more prepared ahead of the sessions, which will generate better insights.

It may sound like a lot of planning and time invested before the sessions even happen, but keep in mind that these are critical steps to achieve the results your need.


Main image by Andrew Neel