Making remote research accessible these days can be hard. There are off-the-shelf solutions but they come with a hefty price tag. Here’s how we’ve tried to make remote research more economical for our teams and clients.

Benjamin Parry
Benjamin Parry
2nd March 2021

Live streaming to the rescue

A usability lab is typically a space where teams come together to observe research sessions. In a remote context what can we do to bring these sessions to the team?

The good news is that almost all remote meeting software can be livestreamed using YouTube or other streaming-enabled services. We typically use Zoom and YouTube together because the initial setup is quick and generating the livestream link during a session is a couple of clicks.

Live streaming allows you to:

  • maintain a 1:1 ratio of participant to researcher avoiding the atmosphere becoming intimidating,
  • share the meeting in real time with every member of the project team,
  • discreetly manage additional questions via a separate channel e.g. Slack.

Top tip: Don’t forget to add live streaming to your informed consent form before the session.

Create a base for participation

As well as offering a means of watching a session, a usability lab would usually have a backroom for teams to collate observation notes and discuss what they learn. In a remote context what can we do to recreate this hub of learning?

We’ve recently been using Airtable bases as an all-in-one solution for capturing session observations. It has very powerful data-inking capabilities and is extremely customisable. Airtable also has a feature that enables you to make a simple web form from the structure of a database. We use the form view to match the main sections of our discussion guide. This allows all observers to contribute to a single repository of observations.

How we structure our Airtable base:

  • Participants: a list of anonymised participants including profile attributes.
  • Team: a list of team members and their contact details.
  • Study: a discussion guide split into main sections and some additional reflective questions.
An example of an Airtable base and the shared web form view.

Steal and adapt

Once you get a feel for this process and adapt it to suit your own way of working you’ll never look back. Why not have a try during your next study?