When a product’s users are scarce and widely dispersed, and your travel budget is limited, usability testing can be a challenge.
Remote testing from North America was part of the answer, for me. I’ve never used UserVue because the users I needed to reach were in Africa, Australia, South America, and Asia—continents that UserVue doesn’t reach. Even within North America, UserVue didn’t address the biggest problems I faced:
- My study participants commonly face restrictive IT policies, so they cannot install our pre-release product and prerequisites.
- I need to prevent study participants from risking their data by using it with a pre-release product.
- There’s no way to force an uninstall after the usability test. Who else will see our pre-release?
Instead, I blended a solution of my own with Morae, Skype, Virtual Audio Cable, and GoToMeeting. I used GoToMeeting to share my desktop, which addresses all three of the problems listed above. I used Skype to get video and audio. I used Virtual Audio Cable to redirect the incoming voice from Skype to Morae Recorder’s microphone channel. Morae recorded everything except the PIP video. It worked. However, my studies were sometimes limited by poor Internet bandwidth to the isolated locations of my study participants.
Amateur facilitators. I realise this is controversial among usability practitioners, but beggars in North America can’t be choosers about how they conduct usability tests on other continents. I developed a one-hour training session for the team of travelling product managers. Training included a short PowerPoint presentation about the concepts, followed by use of Morae Recorder with webcam and headset while role-playing in pairs. The main points I had to get across:
- Between study participants, reset the sample data and program defaults.
- When you’re ready to start recording, first check that the video and audio are in focus and recording.
- While you facilitate, do not lead the user. Instead, try paraphrasing and active listening (by which I mean vernacular elicitation). Remember that you’re not training the users, so task failure is acceptable, and useful to us.
I had a fair bit of influence over the quality of the research, since I developed the welcome script and test scenarios, provided the sample data, and analysed the Morae recordings once they arrived in North America. Due to poor Internet bandwidth to the isolated areas of my study participants, the product managers had to ship me the Morae recordings on DVD, by courier.
It worked. I also believe that amateur facilitation gave the product managers an additional opportunity to learn about customers.