User testing is an essential step in the product design process that helps companies enhance the user experience, check for errors and optimize final product success. And while user testing and research is far from a foreign concept, remote user testing is slightly more modern.
With 66% of companies allowing remote work and 16% fully remote, remote user testing has become a necessity for brands to understand user interactions with their product across the globe. As more companies continue migrating to the remote workforce, remote user testing will only increase in popularity compared to more traditional in-person product testing.
Authors Nate Bolt and Tony Tulathimutte wrote in Remote Research, “In-person lab research used to be the only game in town, and as with most industry practices, its procedures were developed, refined, and standardized, and then became entrenched in the corporate R&D product development cycle.” Now, the game has changed.
While both remote user testing and in-person testing are directed toward a common goal, different rules and procedures apply. It’s critical that teams understand and apply these practices to get the most out of their product development and to enhance their product’s chance of success. Here are five tips on how to best conduct remote user testing:  
Advanced preparation goes a long way, and that is certainly true when it comes to remote user testing. The first step of any testing is to define your team’s goals, as well as who your target group is. Ask yourself the who, when and how. Who do you plan to test? When do you plan to conduct the testing? And what type of testing will you do?
Don’t go into a testing blindly. Establish what the goal is among your team members so you know what to look for from the start. Once you clearly define the goal and understand the essential questions driving this test, you can begin.
Remote user testing obviously requires participants. One benefit of conducting user testing remotely is that it is easier to find participants from all corners of the globe. Recruit participants early in the product development process to catch any issues and gather important feedback as soon as possible. This will help the overall product development process run smoother as opposed to waiting until the final product launch before observing any user interaction.
Whether it be via social media platforms, friends or colleagues, seek out participants who you feel best fit the type of users you need to test. Establish a line of communication between your team and the users so that they can reach out to you with feedback and you can ask them questions throughout the process.
Writing is an integral part of the remote user testing process. It is needed to design the tasks and questions and, therefore, must be clear and concise to avoid participant confusion. To ensure clarity, consider asking one of your colleagues to review the test script beforehand.
Structure-wise, you can divide your questions into three parts: Contextual questions, scenarios and tasks, and questions about the overall experience. The contextual questions will help you get to know your remote users and make them feel more comfortable. The scenario and task questions create a hypothetical situation for your users. And the overall experience questions will provide your team with feedback on the users’ feelings and conclusions regarding the entire test and product.
It’s important to run the test before revealing it to your users. In contrast to in-person testing, remote testing essentially relies completely on technology. And technology can occasionally experience unexpected kinks and malfunctions. To help avoid running into these technical errors during the actual test, have your team and colleagues take it first.
Given that no one from your team will be with your participants during the test to assist, running a pilot test is especially critical for remote user testing. Amy Schade from the Nielsen Norman Group wrote, “Pilot testing (a session or two before the real test) helps fine-tune usability studies, leading to more reliable results.” Run a pilot test to reduce the chance of any issues or errors occurring during the actual test and to optimize overall test results.
The most important part of the remote user testing is what you and your team learn from it. Observe and analyze the test results and hone in on important feedback. Figure out where your product needs changed and what worked and didn’t work for your users.
Choose an effective method of recording and presenting your data. Regardless of how your team opts to present the findings, it’s important to have an overall view of your test results.
Remote user testing boasts incredible benefits for companies who wish to test their product with users based around the globe. It allows brands to enhance their overall product development, as well as save on precious time and resources.
Be sure to conduct regular remote user tests throughout product development to eliminate uncertainty. Remote user testing will give your team the upper hand and magnify your company’s overall success.
We sat down with Bill Macaitis, former Slack CMO, to chat about what it takes to success with ad design. Hear his tips and more in this Q&A style interview!