Skype takes the hassle out of remote usability

Remote research brings cultural relevance to usability findings, providing the kinds of insights which can only be gained by being there…virtually at least.

I recently ran some remote website usability sessions for a Kiwi startup whose main customer is in the U.S.A. … sure, ‘isolation breeds innovation’ and all that, but when your customers are on the other side of the world, it’s vital that your product connects with them.

A fun project, but choosing which software to run during the sessions was a headache… There’s a boggling number of services to choose from (25 on this link) and there’s no clear winner.

After some experimenting, I went with Skype and it did the job nicely.
Here are some benefits over paid and more sophisticated software I’ve used previously:

  • It’s easy to recruit participants who already use Skype
  • Familiarity means no learning curve for you or participants
  • No install means no wasting valuable session time setting-up
  • Sending links and files is instant with built-in messaging
  • It’s possible to make contact with participants prior to the session
  • It’s free, so that’s hard to argue with

During the sessions, I was able to video chat with the participant for a while, then fire up Skype’s screen-sharing tool, so I could observe their movements on the website while  hearing their thoughts and reactions etc.

Skype’s screen-sharing only works between two computers so if you have clients observing, this will have to be through an external monitor (Make sure they are sitting out of view of your webcam and preferably out of earshot).

The project generated rich insights and shaped the design process moving forward.
I’d definitely use Skype for this again, but would love to hear from anyone who’s used anything else with success.

I also had Adobe Connect recommended …anyone tried that?

2 thoughts on “Skype takes the hassle out of remote usability

  1. John

    I’ve used Skype and Adobe, and we’re also free (assuming you aren’t a commercial user) that would have allowed you to share the screen while still sending video to multiple endpoints simultaneously. You have drag-n-drop file transfers, annotation, private and group chats and individual window sharing. (I’ll admit, we currently don’t have the ability to IM prior to the call. We plan to add that in a few months.)

    And because it’s hard to argue with, it’s free for personal use. Try us out, or maybe get in touch with me …we’d love to hear from you. –John

  2. Pingback: Which usability testing approach should I use? « Ken Beatson

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