Remotely Moderated Research
Remotely moderated research is capable of delivering many, if not all, of the benefits and insights traditionally associated with in-person moderated research.
Whether that research takes the form of interviews or facilitated group discussions. We have employed remote moderation to achieve a number of different outcomes, from usability testing to informing the creation of personas, experience maps, or future state customer journeys.
At U1, we have considerable experience in conducting remotely moderated research, frequently running our research projects using a mix of in person (i.e. contextual, client side, or U1’s dedicated research facilities) and remote moderation.
Some of the benefits of remotely moderated research are:
- Participants are in their own environment which can make them feel more comfortable, plus we get some insight into that environment and their context of use as part of their participation
- If conducting usability testing, participants are using their own devices (i.e. computer or phone), rather than having to potentially adapt to our, or client’s, devices
- Recruitment is not geographically focussed on the location of the research moderators
- A different level of intimacy, and sometimes candour, can be attained due to the physical separation of participant and moderator (OR A different level of candour and intimacy can sometimes be achieved with participants when engaging with them in their home or workplace, with the researcher as a virtual, rather than physical, presence)
There are also some considerations that need to be taken into account when conducting remotely moderated research:
- The potential for disruption is greater as the participant may be at home or work
- The opportunity for stakeholders to observe live research can be compromised, depending on the tools being used
- Technical competency of participants and the quality of connections can impact on the experience; however, we have developed robust processes for mitigating this particular risk
We have observed that with the increased uptake of, and engagement with, video enabled messaging and calling apps and technology there is a greater degree of familiarity, and comfort, with the use of tools like Zoom and Lookback in remotely facilitating research.
Below are some quotes from research participants about their involvement in remotely moderated research:
“Remote is really good. When the tech works and works well like this I feel much more comfortable doing it online. That’s fantastic! In fact, I’m in quarantine at the moment so this was the only way I’d be able to participate. Thank you for the opportunity.”
“I find I’m using it more and more, especially in these times. Even my daughter’s dance class is in Zoom! It’s very easy to use.”
“Considering this is only the second time I’ve ever done it [remotely], it’s very easy. I don’t know if it would be much different even if you were here with me. Well, I guess you are here with me, aren’t you!”
“This is good. I don’t feel that it is any different. I’d do it in the future.”
Our experience, and that of participants, makes us confident that with the appropriate planning and forethought, remotely moderated research does not mean any compromise on the rigour or quality of approach or insights. This is particularly important given the current situation in Australia and the rest of the world where we will need to lean on remotely moderated research in the coming months.
The U1 Toolkit
To provide you with the clearest possible insights and help you deliver real outcomes, we tailor each project to include the right methods and activities from our extensive toolkit.
Goals for a small project may need only one or two activities, while larger projects may use a range of methods and services to deliver on requirements.
Before starting your project, we spend time getting to know you, your intended audience and what you understand about your project (or goal). We meet with you and your team – often using interactive workshops – or use interviews or surveys to clarify understandings, fill in knowledge gaps and determine key goals.
The structure of your site or app can make or break the user experience. We use card sorting to explore and produce the most effective structure (information architecture) possible. Card sorting enables us to understand how users classify content and what terminology they might use to describe this content. IA validation usually follows this activity.
A contextual interview is a conversation with a participant in the environment in which they will be using your products and services. This improves our ability to simulate an actual experience and gives us additional insight into who they are through direct observation of the environment in which they live, work or access your services.
Similar to a contextual interview (above), we gain insight by studying the environment in which customers use your products and services. Observation of actual experiences allows us to uncover pain points and opportunities in the process of engaging with your services – without interrupting your users or customers.
The one-on-one setting of depth interviews means we can dig deep to understand your users’ preferences and behaviours. What we discover contributes to the development of wireframes, design concepts, personas, customer journey maps and digital or content strategies.
It is often important to a project to note a customer or user’s feelings or reactions over time. A Diary Study allows us to track and measure behaviour, attitude, emotion and thoughts from participants across a period of time for insight into how these characteristics might change.
Following card sorting, or to test an existing or draft structure, Information Architecture (IA) validation research uses tasks to explore the effectiveness of the structure and labelling.
Moderated IA validation is conducted in a face-to‑face environment.
Online IA validation uses an online survey to test the effectiveness of the site.
Results and feedback from participants highlight what is working well and what’s not – with recommendations for changes that respond to user needs.
In a Mobile Ethnography study, participants provide us with a unique view into their lives via an app downloaded to their smartphone. What we learn through this process leads directly to more empathetic design and drives product/service development that is suited to customer segments.
Quantitative surveys give you access and insight into your customers’ opinions. Findings can be used to support business decisions, test specific hypotheses, analyse relationships between information, and identify (or validate) key sub-groups of customers.
In a service walkthrough we simulate the end-to-end experience your customer would face when using your product or service. This technique provides invaluable insights into how the customer experience is influenced by many different areas across an organisation, and where it can be improved.
True Intent Online Study
The True Intent study sheds light on who is visiting your website, how successful they are in doing what they came to do, and what their overall perceptions are. We intercept visitors on your site and invite them to provide feedback on their experience. The data can inform who you involve in future research, what you prioritise for a web redesign or content review, and is a great way to assess the impact of changes after a new site is launched.
One of the most popular research methods, Usability Testing helps you gain insight into how well your digital (e.g. website, intranet, mobile application) and non-digital (e.g. paper-based forms, bills) assets are meeting user needs and expectations.
Moderated user testing involves one-on-one task-based interviews with users and enables deeper probing into behaviours and preferences.
Online user testing enables greater geographical scope and larger participant numbers as users complete the tasks online, in their own time and environment.
Both options enable us to deliver actionable recommendations, although moderated sessions provide deeper insights into why problems are occurring. We can deliver one-off testing projects or establish an ongoing program of tracking, following a lean, agile process.
A facilitated review and/or analysis of recent research, this might be internal at U1 or include your team in a brainstorming session. Incorporating these sessions throughout a project allows for involvement of key stakeholders in idea generation and decision-making.
Through our inclusive and participatory workshops, you will gain an excellent understanding of how your users (and potential users) operate in the world. Understand their current experiences and let them articulate pain points to identify opportunities for improvement. You can also ask for their help in creating new solutions.
Gain a visual illustration of the different touchpoints users encounter when interacting with your organisation or service. By mapping out their emotional state, attitude and actions throughout the experience with your product or service, we are able to identify pain points and opportunities for improvement.
Future State User Journeys
The ‘journey’ depicted tells or shows an engaging story based on the ideal customer experience with your organisation, product or service. User Journeys usually correspond with a persona and represent a ‘future state’ vision.
Personas based on user research paint a clear picture of who your users are to ensure your products and services are clearly aligned to their needs – essential for developing successful digital experiences. We bring our research findings to life in a set of personas that become a reference point for your users’ core behaviours, motivations and expectations.
Once you’ve invested in user research, it is important the findings are translated into an improved user experience or ideas for future services and products. Often this leads to the development of wireframes that meet UX best practice and are matured and developed to the point where they can be tested with potential users. Alternatives to online prototypes might include mapping services onto post-it notes, simulating the banking experience with a cardboard ATM, or mocking up mobile app experiences with paper tools and playing cards.
Strategy and frameworks
A digital strategy will help you think (and plan) long-term about the functionality, content, governance, and resourcing needed to ensure your digital channels are effective. Adding a roadmap of actions for the short, medium and long term allows you to focus your efforts in the right places to meet your users’ needs.
Outsourcing our research capability into your organisation allows you to meet the needs of consumers and stay ahead of the competition – with minimal disruptions and overheads. Our outsourcing solution integrates one of our experienced research team into your company for a defined period. The approach is cost-effective, quick to implement, and gives you more flexibility with your in-house resources.