Shifting a qualitative research study from in-field to remote

Shifting a qualitative research study from in-field to remote

Published on 25.06.2020, by Marina Psimikaki, Catalina Castellanos,
Matteo Chimienti

Published on 25.06.2020, by Marina Psimikaki, Catalina Castellanos, Matteo Chimienti

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A tailored approach combining quantitative and qualitative methods to learn from remote participants.  
A tailored approach combining quantitative and qualitative methods to learn from remote participants.  

Recently, in preparation of a large-scale product launch, we found ourselves quickly having to adapt to "new norms" on how to iterate on a product and inform the experience strategy from user insights. Due to the travel restrictions of the 2020-lockdown, we took design research, previously anticipated in-field, to a 100% remote qualitative and quantitative study in the US. Our teams, despite being dispersed at several European locations, created a 4-part remote research methodology across 12 locations, 6 time zones and engaging users with activities during 7 days. 

Recently, in preparation of a large-scale product launch, we found ourselves quickly having to adapt to "new norms" on how to iterate on a product and inform the experience strategy from user insights. Due to the travel restrictions of the 2020-lockdown, we took design research, previously anticipated in-field, to a 100% remote qualitative and quantitative study in the US. Our teams, despite being dispersed at several European locations, created a 4-part remote research methodology across 12 locations, 6 time zones and engaging users with activities during 7 days. 


Rich stories can be told remotely

Rich stories can be told remotely

While remote research cannot fully replace the human connection of in-person sessions, the use of digital tools allowed us to learn and generate valuable insights to inform the development of the product. Our qualitative research methodology reached across a diverse demographic of age, background, and levels of digital savviness. We began our research by doing a survey using an online research tool. This survey enabled us to develop a foundational understanding of how users felt about the internet, getting to know them a bit before meeting on our online interviews.


Tuning up our empathy levels

We conducted a series of one-on-one interviews hosted on Zoom, where each participant discussed their health, life and routine with us through an in-depth interview in the comfort of their home. We analyzed observations from these stories, generating insights about areas such as the physical and emotional wellness, social activity, feelings of empowerment, environment, and use of technology. 

Our empathy levels tuned up to 11. As reading body language and tone is more challenging behind a screen, observing facial expressions and subtle cues while users react to the use of our product became even more important.

As is the case with in-person interviews, transcript and notes taken during the interview are extremely important. We used Miro to recreate our workspace walls and used their tools to establish an efficient workflow. Using virtual post-it notes we captured feedback, thoughts, motivations, fears and frustrations on whiteboards and empathy maps. We made sure to include time for mini-synthesis after each session, where we captured highlights while they were fresh.

While remote research cannot fully replace the human connection of in-person sessions, the use of digital research tools allowed us to learn and generate valuable insights to inform the development of the product. Our qualitative research methodology reached across a diverse demographic of age, background, and levels of digital savviness.  We began our research by doing a survey using an online research tool. This survey enabled us to develop a foundational understanding of how users felt about the internet and social media, getting to know them a bit before meeting on our online interviews.

 
Tuning up our empathy levels

We conducted a series of one-on-one interviews hosted on Zoom, where each participant discussed their health, life and routine with us through an in-depth interview in the comfort of their home. We analyzed observations from these stories, generating insights about areas such as the physical and emotional wellness, social activity, feelings of empowerment, environment, and use of technology. 

Our empathy levels tuned up to 11. As reading body language and tone is more challenging behind a screen, observing facial expressions and subtle cues while users react to the use of our product became even more important.

As is the case with in-person interviews, transcript and notes taken during the interview are extremely important. We used Miro to recreate our workspace walls and used their tools to establish an efficient workflow. Using virtual post-it notes we captured feedback, thoughts, motivations, fears and frustrations on whiteboards and empathy maps. We made sure to include time for mini-synthesis after each session, where we captured highlights while they were fresh.

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Uncovering insights through asynchronous usability testing

Typically, when we conduct usability testing in person, devices are provided for participants. One of the biggest advantages of remote research is that the participants use their own devices and in their own spaces, which provides a more accurate representation of the way they usually interact, their internet behavior and habits. During unmoderated testing sessions, a behavior analytics tool recorded the users' interaction within the website and prompted them with questions about their experience. Viewing and replaying the recordings of the sessions allowed the research team to observe in detail and uncover insights on the usability of the website.

To wrap up our research, we used a video survey tool that enabled us to have asynchronous conversations with the participants, setting a stage for them to express their feedback and thoughts on the product. This enabled us to maintain a face-to-face connection throughout the study, and listening to their individual experiences provided the team and our client with valuable.

 
Embracing the opportunities and constraints

Being able to conduct remote research provided us with great insights in need-finding, storytelling, and engagement techniques with our target users. Taking advantage of the flexibility that the remote approach gave us, we took the opportunity to do things in a different way, trying new methods and tools to come close to the users we are designing for.  
With the research outcomes our client was able to validate and prioritize future business decisions, including which types of new features to develop first.

 

Uncovering insights through asynchronous usability testing

Typically, when we conduct usability testing in person, devices are provided for participants. One of the biggest advantages of remote research is that the participants use their own devices and in their own spaces, which provides a more accurate representation of the way they usually interact, their internet behavior and habits. During unmoderated testing sessions, a behavior analytics tool recorded the users' interaction within the website and prompted them with questions about their experience. Viewing and replaying the recordings of the sessions allowed the research team to observe in detail and uncover insights on the usability of the website.

To wrap up our research, we used a video survey tool that enabled us to have asynchronous conversations with the participants, setting a stage for them to express their feedback and thoughts on the product. This enabled us to maintain a face-to-face connection throughout the study, and listening to their individual experiences provided the team and our client with valuable


Embracing the opportunities and constraints


Being able to conduct remote research provided us with great insights in need-finding, storytelling, and engagement techniques with our target users. Taking advantage of the flexibility that the remote approach gave us, we took the opportunity to do things in a different way, trying new methods and tools to come close to the users we are designing for. With the research outcomes our client was able to validate and prioritize future business decisions, including which types of new features to develop first.

 

Want to know more? Reach out to learn more about this project or how we can help you. 
You want to know more? Contact us to learn more about this project or how we can help you. 

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