Running a Remote Usability Test

In this two part series, I’ll walk you through how to run a remote moderated usability test. In this page, we’ll look at starting the session first, as with any moderated study. It’s a good idea to send out day of reminders to participants, confirm their session, start time and tell them how long it’s going to take. Tell them which devices or equipment they’ll need, like their phone, their charger and a pair of headphones, for example.

They need to install any kind of app in advance of the session. For example, Zoom remind them to do so.

You should also tell them how to join the session when it’s time. That might mean providing the meeting link in the email or message. Finally, remind the participants to be somewhere where they will have access to good, stable Wi-Fi and where they won’t be interrupted by loud noises. And that is more necessary than you might think. Sometimes participants don’t realize that those are two very important things. Next, you have to coordinate how you’ll get your participants and observers into the session in a physical space. This is pretty easy. You get the observer situated sometimes in a separate observer room while the participant waits in a waiting room. But in a virtual context, it can be a little trickier. Getting the observer setup usually includes recapping any important rules like Don’t on mute yourself during the session. You might also want to give them a few details about the participant or ask them to watch for certain potential issues or opportunities. During this time, it’s important that the participant cannot see or hear you or your observers. I really like using Zoom’s waiting room feature for this.

That way I can let my observers in before I admit my participant. If you’re using software that doesn’t have a waiting room feature, you can hold off on sending the participant the link to the meeting until you’re totally ready. That approach can work fine, but it does add a few extra minutes to the beginning of the session. And you have to warn the participant that that is how you’re going to bring them in. So next, you’ll start the session with the participant. You want to welcome them and thank them and ask them how to pronounce their name correctly. That’s something that might be good to do in a physical test and in-person test. But in a virtual one, you’ll need to use the participants name more often to get their attention, especially since they can’t see you while they’re screen sharing. It’s a good idea to briefly mentioned observers, particularly if the participant can see the list of people in the meeting and will know that they’re there. I usually say something like, we have some people in the meeting with us.

They’ll be quietly observing and looking for ways to improve this product. If you didn’t already have your participant sign a consent form in advance of the session, you can have them do it at this point, then ask if it’s OK to begin recording. And when the participant agrees begin, then you can ask the participant to start sharing their screen and begin to run the session. So we’ll pick it up from here in the next page on running and wrapping up a test session.

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