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The following is a guest post by Cherryl Pereira, Head of Content at Chisel Labs

What leaps to your mind when you see the word ‘remote?’ It is something conducted at a distance, without any physical contact.

Remote research is usually undertaken when the field research isn’t possible, feasible, or required. It is often conducted when a company or research group is in two different locations and remote co-operation between them would be more efficient.

It is a common misconception that remote research is a compromised, less yielding version of user research. If you dive deeper into the concept and look closely, this presumption is far from true. In fact, remote research can help you fetch better data.

The main idea behind remote lab experiments is to try and mimic the remote users’ environment and conditions as much as possible. This means having to use remote observation or remote ethnography in research, which adds further understanding to remote user interviews.

In this article, we will expound upon the whole concept of remote user research and analyze the following:


What is remote user research?

Advantages of remote user research

Limitations of remote user research

Different categories of remote user research

Popular methodologies

Different types of tools you can use

Final word


What is remote user research?

Remote user research is a way of doing research that generally consists of observing participants as they interact with a prototype or an interface, as opposed to being next to them and watching face-to-face.

Even though it started as a technique usability experts used, it’s now widely adopted in various contexts: e-commerce websites, mobile apps, and more recently wearable devices.

The main reason is as simple as it allows researchers to test people away from the lab. Recruiting people is usually not an issue, because you can find users anywhere on the planet.

It’s an important aspect of web design and development. By understanding how users interact with a website from remote locations, you can make modifications that improve the user experience for all visitors.

The goal is to understand how people use technology to interact with remote systems, services, or content. By conducting user research we can make necessary improvements.

To do this, we need to use online interviews, surveys, and focus groups. These tools allow us to gather data from a large number of people in a short amount of time.


Advantages of remote user research

The merits that remote user research offers are multifarious and numerous.

We have enumerated some of the most obvious merits down below:

  1. It’s cost-effective:

Traditionally, user research is done by sending researchers to the field to conduct user interviews or surveys. Remote user research eliminates the need for travel and lowers the overall cost of the study.

  1. It’s fast:

Remote user research can be conducted quickly and efficiently with a large number of participants. This is due to the remote delivery of surveys and interviews, as well as the use of online focus groups.

  1. It reaches more people:

Due to its cost-effectiveness and speed, remote user research can reach a larger population than traditional user research methods.

  1. It’s more representative:

Because remote user research reaches a larger audience, it is more likely to be representative of the population. This helps find solutions for large companies that serve audiences across many demographics, locations, and cultures.

  1. It gives participants freedom:

Participants who take part in remote user research surveys or interviews are given much more freedom than they would be if they were involved in a traditional focus group or lab study.

  1. It offers profound more diverse knowledge:

Traditional research methods can lead to bias and misguided results, if the sample size or participant group is too small. The larger the samples are, the more diversity they will include.

  1. It can be more cost-effective:

Remote user research allows businesses to survey a large number of users for relatively little money compared to what traditional lab studies or focus groups do.

  1. Feedback is faster:

The time between conducting remote research and receiving feedback from participants is much shorter than it would be if users were involved in a lab study or focus group, which often requires scheduling and travel time for participants and researchers alike.


Limitations of remote user research

If there are merits then there are some simultaneous thwarts too.

It is important to identify what remote research can do best, so that we can overcome these limitations by supplementing it with other approaches.

Moreover, surveys or interviews may not be as rich in data as observational studies.

Thus, remote user research should not be seen as a replacement for traditional user research but rather a supplemental tool.

Let’s look at the limitations in detail, so that we can be prudent and tactful in tackling them.

  1. It sometimes only addresses a finite set of questions: Remote user research tends to address only specific behaviors and problems instead of exploring the entire experience.
  2. The remote setting limits the range of behavior: Since there are fewer non-verbal cues in remote communication than face-to-face communication, remote users may not act naturally during remote sessions. Remote usability tests take place under unnatural conditions that may affect the results if they are generalized or extrapolated (if one cannot apply or conclude that data onto different contexts).
  3. The data and the information obtained from user research may seem staid and mechanical: Remote user research provides quantitative data as well as qualitative data. The main drawback is that, because the users are not physically present, it may be difficult to get an idea about their emotions and reactions to the design. This can lead to mechanical results.

Remote research lacks the in-person interaction and visual cues that help people interact with each other naturally. This can limit the feedback it can generate.

  1. Inexperienced moderators could struggle with running remote sessions effectively: This could lead to less productive sessions and incorrect interpretations of user feedback. Inexperienced remote moderators might struggle with getting user feedback and keeping remote users on track.
  2. The remote environment can be distracting: In a remote session, there are often multiple distractions. This could lead to participants being less focused on the task at hand and affect the results of the study.

Different categories of remote user research

User research is primarily divided into two categories: moderated and unmoderated.



In remote moderated user research, the moderator has a remote screen sharing tool. In this case, the remote moderator can have control over the session and offer support to users as needed. The remote moderator also takes notes on their local laptop or tablet for later analysis.


Read More: How to Convert More Sales Through Remote Moderated Testing?



In remote unmoderated user research, no remote screen sharing tools are used by the moderator, because there is no need to take control of how participants access content that is being researched. Instead, remote moderators take notes during sessions and work with the team afterward to compile those notes into a report.


Popular methodologies

Now let’s see what the most commonly used remote research methodologies are:

  1. Usability testing: Usability testing is one of the most popular methodologies. In a usability test, you ask participants to complete specific tasks on your website or app, and then you watch and listen to how they do it. You can also measure how satisfied they are with their experience.
  2. Remote interviews: In remote interviews, you talk to users over the phone or Skype about their experiences with your product. This is a great way to get feedback on issues that might be difficult to observe in a usability test.
  3. Remote surveys: Remote surveys are questionnaires that users complete online. They’re a great way to collect data from a large number of people quickly and easily.
  4. Benchmarking studies: If you’ve got more than one product, remote benchmarking studies are an effective way of finding out how your product stacks up against the competition. This saves you time and money because you can conduct studies in remote locations.
  5. Ad testing: Remote ad tests let you see which ads work best in different geographic regions or on different websites.
  6. Eye-tracking studies: If someone is looking at a website or app while they’re using it, eye-tracking software can track where they look on the screen so that the next version is even more user-friendly.
  7. Beyond the device studies: In remote usability, you get to test both desktop and mobile products. In remote eye tracking or remote biometric studies, you get to understand how people interact with a digital product across different platforms.

Remote eye tracking and remote biometric studies are also useful tools because they show websites, apps, or digital products’ effectiveness across different platforms. And remote benchmarking lets you see how your design stacks up against the competition.

  1. Competitive benchmark studies: Understanding how users interact with your product compared to competitors can help you identify ways to create a better user experience.

Remote usability studies are great because they let businesses see how real people use their products and where there might be room for improvement.


Read More: User Research Methods: Guide for Choosing the Right One


Different types of tools you can use

After reading so many nuances and intricacies, you must be wondering ‘how do I conduct my remote user research?’ We hear you. Let’s dive into some useful tools that can help you get started.


How do you conduct remote user research?

To facilitate your needs we are listing out our top 4 broad categories of tools, which cater to varied needs and requirements.

  1. Full-service tools/platforms

The tools/platforms mentioned in this category have the full stack of remote research functionalities. They offer remote user testing, remote moderated studies, remote biometrics-based analysis, and so on under one roof.

  1. Research-specific services

While some tools offer comprehensive services, others focus on specific aspects of the process, such as data collection or triggering participants.

  1. Analysis-specific services

Once you have the data, it is important to analyze it and make sense of it. Several tools and platforms offer specific services for analysis.

  1. Other secondary tools

Various other secondary tools can be used for remote user research. These include tools for data collection, communication, task management, and more.

Choosing the right tools can be daunting, given the sheer number of options available. However, by understanding your specific needs, you can make an informed decision about which tool is best suited for your organization.


Final word

There are a gazillion benefits of remote user research. It’s not only cost-effective but also flexible, viable, and provides research-specific qualitative data, thanks to the rapidly growing digitalization age.

With the right tools and methodology, you can nail your user research. So choose wisely and look forward to a fruitful remote user experience.


Cherryl Pereira is standing in front of a bush with white flowers. She is smiling, and her hair is down, partially covering her red outfitCherryl Pereira is the Head of Content at Chisel. Chisel Labs is a premiere agile product management software company that brings together roadmapping, team alignment, and customer connection.



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