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HOW TO CONDUCT REMOTE MODERATED RESEARCH

Moderated user testing entails doing a live, online interview with your users via camera, asking them questions, directing them through tasks, and watching what they do on screen as they respond to your commands. If you are alone you’ll also need to take notes. Through the Backroom feature in UXapply you can invite as many colleagues, note-takers, stakeholders as you would like to only concentrate on the moderation part of the job and never miss a thing the user does. Being 1 on 1 with the user is also important so that they feel comfortable, as having multiple product stakeholders make it intimidating for them to state the problems and frustrations about that product.

It is natural that the process appears scary at first, yet you don’t need years of training or expertise to be a superb remote usability test moderator!


Prepare

The easiest way to prepare for a moderated testing session is to practice beforehand and concentrate on your objectives. Always keep your end goal in mind: What would you like to learn about? What concerns do you need to test in particular? What do you hope to achieve? It will be easier to generate questions and activities for the user to complete throughout your session if your goals are more refined. Make a list of your questions and tasks. With a few dry runs, you may practice your moderation. Keep your mind open; knowing your product inside and out will help you stay focused throughout the session. The types of questions you ask may vary depending on the user and their decisions. Make sure you’re ready to deal with any issues that may arise. The more you practice, the better; this will help you prepare for a myriad of situations.


Conduct

Begin by introducing yourself to the test participants and explaining that you will be acting as a moderator and will be asking them questions. Allow the participant to relax by explaining that you are simply seeking their input and opinion on the product. Make it clear to your participants that you are looking for authentic, honest responses; there are no right or incorrect answers. Brief the user about what they need to know about your product: for example, that you’re working on a prototype or that some components of your product aren’t finished. To avoid bias, try not to reveal too much about what you’re testing; you want a fresh pair of eyes on the platform and an open mind. Making things feel more personal and comfortable might be as simple as asking a few background questions or starting with an icebreaker. Setting up a scene or offering a scenario is one of the greatest methods to start a session after you’ve introduced yourself and heard from your user. Consider the following scenario. “Imagine you’re on the market for a coffee machine that suits your preferences.” “Let’s pretend you were looking for a new camera and stumbled across this page.” Setting the scene with a scenario is essential. It provides users with a starting point for their own particular user journey. It also provides them a goal or purpose.


Ask the right questions

The moderator is always a possible source of bias is mediated meetings. Being as impartial as possible is the greatest way to avoid this. As if you were a scientist, conduct your session. You are not a participant in the user journey; rather, you are a bystander.

Do not ask leading questions that may sway the user’s responses, such as: - “Can you tell me what you enjoy about this product?” (assumes the user liked it) - “What about this product was difficult to use?” (Assumes the user has found it challenging.)

Instead, utilize expectation questions. Understand if the experience lives up to their expectations. Request that the user demonstrate their normal or previous ways of doing things so that you learn about their habits. “What would you do next?”, “How would you do it?”, “How would you go about finding this?” Ask probing questions like “What about it makes it unclear?” when a user says something like “This section is confusing” or “How would you go about getting more information?”. You’ll obtain better feedback if you dig deeper into the user’s thinking and habits.

Throughout the session, probing questions are beneficial. Any time you hear a comment that interests you, or any time you or the user want more information, ask your participants probing questions.

Answer questions with more questions. If a user asks, “Is this intended to be this way?”, try saying: “Is that what you believe it should look like?” or “How did you expect it to appear?”. Do not explain the product (you are not an onboarding screen) as you would not be with them if they were to use the product in their natural environment. So do not directly answer their questions unless they have a technical problem or a bug that you need to help them with. You are trying to understand their way of thinking throughout their journey even if they are confused.

Also, stay away from yes-no questions. Asking inquiries that can be answered with a single word is not a good idea. Here are some nice question starters: “How did you feel about…” “What are the advantages and disadvantages of…” “Did it seem challenging or simple…” “How would you react if…” The essential aspect of a great moderated user experience interview session is the one in which the user journey is completed as naturally as possible while insights are gathered throughout the test. You could find that remaining quiet and letting the user do what they naturally do is the best option for some periods of your session.


End on a positive note

After the session is done, send them off with a smile. If needed, a disclosure about what the research was all about or some additional info about the product (previously omitted during the research to avoid biases ;) would definitely be useful in creating a positive dialogue. The research participant is actually one of your target customers so why not make them brand evangelists while you’re at it!

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