To celebrate the launch of our brand new e-book Remote Moderated 101, let’s take a look at the pros of this research method that delivers impactful UX insight over any distance from any location.

Despite the vast array of UX research techniques and methods within a researcher’s toolkit, it sometimes feels like in-person or lab-based moderated research is the only tool available, or is at least the only tool your stakeholders care about. However as authors Kuldeep Kelkar, SVP, Global UX Research Services, and Jamie Miller, Senior UX Researcher, point out in their Remote Moderated 101 guide:

“That’s like using a hammer for everything from hanging posters to cutting down a tree. In-person moderated is a powerful tool that can yield great insights but it is far from a panacea for all your user research needs.”

So let’s talk about a method that may not be in your existing user research tool-kit, but could be a lot more beneficial and easier to implement than you think…

What is remote moderated research?

‘Moderated research’ is when you listen to your participants spoken-out-loud thoughts and watch their behaviour as they interact with your product, but while you observe you can dig a little deeper by asking them ad hoc questions in the heat of the moment. Something you can’t do if you’re watching a recording of the test at a later date.

If you add ‘remote’ into the mixture, this basically means that you and your participant(s) can do this from the comfort of your own homes or locations. It’s the same premise as in-person or in-lab testing – the moderator is there to ask participants questions, respond to questions and feedback, and guide them through the tasks – but you are live online with participants from anywhere in the world, connected to them with screen share technology.

This is one of the primary reasons why conducting remote moderated studies is so beneficial – you get all the quality insights without anybody having to travel.

Remote vs. in-person

As we mentioned near the beginning of this article, within the world of moderated research there’s historically been a strong emphasis on in-person testing, and there are many good reasons for this…

  • You can read participants’ body language and facial expressions easily – perhaps frustrations aren’t being communicated verbally, but you can see it on their faces.
  • You control the hardware – whatever device you are testing on, it will be your device and so you control it. This is a huge advantage, because technical challenges can become an issue when you’re conducting remote moderated sessions.
  • You control the location and the environment – great for you, but maybe a participant would be more relaxed if they were in their own natural setting?

It’s that final point that suggests why in-person testing *may* not provide the most valuable insight. How often do you sit in a stuffy conference room, using an app, while being monitored by a stranger asking you why you’re doing the things you’re doing?

The benefits of remote moderated research

As Kuldeep and Jamie state in their e-book, the main reason for running remote moderated research is so that you can be in a live setting with a participant despite their distance from you. This allows you to have a conversation with your users as you’re observing what they are doing and dig deep into usability issues in order to better understand their behavior, while also saving travel costs.

You can modify your script on the fly to probe further if there are confusing areas and ask ad-hoc follow-up questions. It’s important not to ask leading questions to adversely introduce your own bias, but there are advantages of adapting to the needs of the moderator, stakeholders/observers, and the participant on the fly. This will save you the hassle of running another test just to ask follow up questions.

Geographic distribution is important – your target market will probably not be in your exact same location, and one of the most common challenges we hear from researchers  is that they find it harder and harder to find the right participants within their geographic area. That’s where remote moderated comes in handy.

You don’t have to pay travel expenses, or provide refreshments – very important if budgets are tight or non-existent.

You don’t have the hassle, expense and inconvenience of running a lab in your office.

You can be more flexible with participants’ time needs, especially it they’re in different timezones.

There is also merit in observing a participant using their own technology rather than the hardware and the technology that is given to them.

If you’re using webcams, you’ll still be able to read their body language and pick up on any non-verbal communication.

This is an awful lot of research value packed into one methodology. And it’s not just us at UserZoom who feel this way. We’ll leave you with a quote from Kate Meyer and Kara Pernice of the Nielsen Norman Group, whose article Remote Moderated Usability Tests: How and Why to Do Them succinctly describes the value of remote moderated:

“Remote moderated testing can give you significantly more useful, interesting, detailed findings than you’ll get from remote unmoderated tests. It takes a bit more coordination, but the small amount of extra effort is well worth the beneficial impact this methodology will have on your research.”

To learn more about conducting successful remote moderated research, download our brand new ebook: Remote Moderated 101.

Here you’ll learn:

  • The benefits of conducting moderated research
  • The differences between in-person and remote moderated
  • The 10 steps to conducting successful remote moderated research
  • FAQs on conducting remote moderated studies

Plus we’ve included a printable remote moderated checklist, so you can keep track of every step along the way to launching a remote moderated user testing tool.