Why you should embrace remote research

Illustration of two people making notes as several arms holding phones surround them
Illustration of two people making notes as several arms holding phones surround them

Qualitative research is typically conducted in-person, in a lab environment. There is a general consensus that meeting participants face-to-face provides a richness that is difficult to achieve otherwise. In some cases that can be true. But for many qualitative studies remote research can be just as good, if not better, at generating the insights needed to help a team move forward in their work.

Here are just a few benefits that a remote approach to research can bring.

Diversity

Without the need to bring participants to a single location, we’re often free to source participants from further afield and in turn ensure that our study data isn’t skewed by localised trends and behaviours (if that’s of concern). Other aspects of diversity come into play too. With remote research anyone with an internet connection can participate. That includes those with disabilities who otherwise might be unable to attend an in-person session. We find we get greater success finding people from lower income backgrounds too, who often find themselves with little time or perhaps aren’t able to front the money required to travel to a study.

Convenience

Remote testing means no travel time, so we can talk to more people who have busy schedules (which is basically everyone). Asking someone to jump on a video call during their lunch break is a lot less of an ask than say asking them to commute across the city or take an afternoon off work. This becomes especially beneficial when trying to engage specialists in studies such as medical professionals or teachers.

Comfort

When participants are able to engage with the study from the comfort of their home or work environment they are often more relaxed as a result. Seasoned researchers know the importance of helping participants feel at ease and environment has a big effect on this. Participants arriving for a lab-based research study often arrive with trepidation. All of which must be dispelled at the start of a session.

Seeing users in their home or work environment also provides us with a chance to peek into their world. In the past we’ve had users give us video tours of their homes via FaceTime.

Own devices

Typically, in a lab environment devices are provided for participants. This is more convenient for us as facilitators but often participants are forced to interact with an unfamiliar device. With remote research users can use their own devices, which provides a more accurate representation of the way they usually interact. This is especially good when usability testing or testing customer flows, where passwords and personal data need to be inputted. You’ll get to see all their wonderful methods for speeding through forms and remembering passwords.

Quicker and cheaper

This will obviously depend on the exact study you want to run. For some studies, particularly usability testing, approaches like remote, unmoderated can drastically reduce the costs of recruitment and allow you to run multiple tests concurrently.

Whether you’re thinking about remote research out of necessity or are considering different approaches for your next study. Take these benefits into account and you may find it saves time, money, and produces better results.

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I run SAME, we create digital experiences for the arts and social good. Work with us.

Written by

Creative Partner at Same. We help purpose-led organisations make digital products that matter. https://www.projectsbysame.com

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