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Usability Testing with Remotely Located Users

With the widespread use of high-speed Internet connections and multiple communications channels in the home as well as work settings, it has become feasible to conduct usability testing “remotely,” without the need for the test administrator and test participant to be in the same place at the same time. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of remote usability testing – moderated (real-time; synchronous; same time, different place) and un-moderated (non-real-time; asynchronous; different time, different place). Both will be covered in this tutorial.

There are some obvious advantages to remote usability testing. The participants can be drawn from a nationwide or even world-wide pool, without the test team incurring travel expenses in order to orchestrate the testing. In addition, the participants can test the material of interest in their native computing environment. Because of the time savings and convenience of the participant not having to travel to an in-person meeting, it may be possible to pay them less.


Half Day Tutorial by Richard L. Horst (UserWorks, Inc.)
Category:
Methodology
Track:
General
Time:
6:30pm to 9:30pm on Monday, June 08, 2009

About the Half Day Tutorial

With the widespread use of high-speed Internet connections and multiple communications channels in the home as well as work settings, it has become feasible to conduct usability testing “remotely,” without the need for the test administrator and test participant to be in the same place at the same time. Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of remote usability testing – moderated (real-time; synchronous; same time, different place) and un-moderated (non-real-time; asynchronous; different time, different place). Both will be covered in this tutorial.

There are some obvious advantages to remote usability testing. The participants can be drawn from a nationwide or even world-wide pool, without the test team incurring travel expenses in order to orchestrate the testing. In addition, the participants can test the material of interest in their native computing environment. Because of the time savings and convenience of the participant not having to travel to an in-person meeting, it may be possible to pay them less.

Moderated Remote Testing In the moderated form of remote usability testing a web-enabled connection is used to share the computer interface that is being evaluated between the test administrator, who hosts the application, and a remotely located test participant. The test participant typically controls the application running on the test administrator’s computer while the two converse by telephone. If desired, the proceedings can be recorded by the test administrator using whatever audio-video capture would be used if the session were conducted in-person. The only element of live testing that one typically foregoes when conducting the session remotely is a video camera view of the participant. The main requirement for the remote participants is that they be able to be on the Internet and talk on the phone at the same time.

Equipment Configuration The instructors will demonstrate a typical remote usability testing situation, with the on-site configuration representing the test administrator’s end of the connection. A web-connected portable usability lab will be used to display the web site being evaluated in this mock usability test and to digitally record the proceedings. A remotely located mock test participant, a confederate at our office, will connect to this “host” computer via the GoToMyPC web service (www.gotomypc.com) and will converse with us via telephone. The participant will control the application running on the local “host” computer. The test administrator can take control of the mouse as needed. A computer projector will display the “host” computer screen to the presenters and attendees, and computer speakers will be set up such that the telephone conversation between the presenters (i.e., the mock test administrator) and the participant can be heard by the group. If feasible to provide a second computer projector, it may be possible for us to simultaneously display both the perspective of the moderator and participant.

The presenters will supply all computer and A/V equipment. We can work with whatever Internet connectivity and telephone service is available in the demonstration room, but presumably some sort of broadband Internet connection will be available. It could be wireless or land-line based. The telephone connection could be a POTS line, or we could use the Skype (www.skype.com) service for Voice Over Internet telephone service. The Mock Evaluation To serve as the subject of this mock usability test, a web site will be selected that is considered to have the general public as its primary audience. The participant will be asked to perform several short tasks with this website, probably finding some typical piece of information or executing some simple transactions. The particular website and tasks are less important than illustrating the facility with which the test administrator and test participant can interact, that they can share control of the “host” application, and that the interaction generally feels natural (i.e., there is minimal lag introduced by the remote connection, there is the sense that the local and remote displays are in synchrony, and the conversation reflects the real-time nature of the interaction between the test administrator and participant with regard to their shared view of the application). Various attendees will be given the opportunity to play the role of the moderator and participant.