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Webinar Q&A – Top questions about remote user research and recruitment

By Team PFR

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People for Research recently hosted our third webinar with guest Adam Babajee-Pycroft, Managing Director at Natural Interaction. We had a very engaged audience and the questions section made up almost half of the webinar slot. Here are a handful of the most in-depth questions and the answers provided.

What tools work best to run remote research?

Adam: We run a lot of remote moderated research. There are dedicated tools out there such as lookback, but video conferencing tools are probably a good place to start. I am a big fan of Zoom, it’s fairly easy to set up and cheap to licence, which is an important consideration. It seems fairly bullet-proof even with poor connection. Try and go where your users are, and pick the right tools for them.

Do you have any tips for doing remote research with people who have accessibility needs or who use assistive technology?

Adam: Often when considering assistive technology everyone thinks about visual impairments and screen readers, which is a good place to start, but actually there are a number of different things to take into consideration when planning research, such as input devices the participants use, the computer they have, and physical impairments which might impact the session. Also, potentially cognitive issues and any challenge around comprehension of things could be a factor. There are tools such as Hemmingway, where you can put in the word you are trying to use and it will provide guidance based on an appropriate reading age.

To sum up, just tailor the session around the participant, consider their impairments and try and make them feel at ease. I think remote research is a great way to help people who use assistive technology to participate when potentially heading into the centre of Bristol or London might be a challenge.

jess lewesJess: If people do have their own set up at home it is often on a desktop with additional hardware that isn’t possible for people to bring into a lab environment. Remote research means people can use their own technology and version of software that they are familiar with.

Thinking about remote moderated research over a video conference tool, people may not feel comfortable sharing their screen if they aren’t able to see what is happening. It is important therefore to be transparent and let the participant know what is going to happen during the session beforehand, to allow them to voice concerns and consider if they are comfortable with this. Also, the participant will have time to investigate a solution before being in the situation, for example sharing their screen, but not allowing the researcher to take control.

How do you deal with handling participants personal information when recruiting/running research?

Adam: It is really important that you give due consideration to this, especially ‘post-GDPR’. Typically, the nature of user research means you will have different bits of data you are handling. Make sure your team are completely aware of where the data is stored, and that you have a clear process for how it will be managed. We always anonymise participant data before giving it to clients, usually just providing a first name. It’s about making sure everything is clearly mapped, that you delete things you don’t need, and go round people’s local machines and make sure everything is stored appropriately in a shared place with controlled access.

Another thing would be online banking: if you are paying the incentives yourselves, make sure you delete the participants’ bank details because you have no reason to store this data once payment has taken place.

Jess: Just thinking about the recruitment process, one element that is really important is transparency. Along with lawfulness and fairness, transparency is one of the key principles of the regulation and it highlights the use of clear unambiguous language.

If you do need to keep personal information for a specific reason, just make sure this is communicated to the participants with a clear explanation. Allow them to say if they are not comfortable; this conversation should happen before the research when the person still has the opportunity to decline participation in a way that is not awkward. If you leave it until during the session, the participant may feel pressured into saying yes, even if they are not comfortable with what you are asking them to do.

This is another benefit of using a separate recruiter who is outside of your process and can go through these requirements as part of getting informed consent to participate in the research. It will allow the participants to ask all the questions people didn’t ask before GDPR came into force, but that they are now asking because of an increased awareness of their rights. Alternatively, the participant has the right to decide that they do not want to be a part of the research before they have fully committed.

Adam: Another consideration is to think about what you are researching. If you are in the healthcare space, there are certain types of personal data that need to be treated differently and you need to be aware of the specific implications.

Jess: The ICO have an easy-to-read guide on special category data, which includes health information. Our last webinar was on the subject of GDPR, so this is worth listening to if you want to know more about this subject in the context of user research and recruitment.

Has anyone done remote testing with teenagers and are there additional considerations for participants under 18?

Adam: It depends on the age of the participant and if they are able to agree to participate in research. What we found when running research with 16 to 18 year olds is that often we go in with preconceptions – for example, the notion that everyone knows what a direct debit is –, but actually people who have never paid a bill before may not know what this is. I would treat this as cautiously as I could if I was considering in-person research.

Jess: Going back to what Adam said earlier in the webinar about remote research taking place in the participants’ natural habitat, actually, people aged under 18 are likely to be getting help or advice from a parent or guardian with certain decisions, so it would make sense to have the parent present during the research session, depending on the subject.

Also, as a user researcher, look after yourself: if you don’t feel comfortable without the participant having a chaperone, then ask the parents to be included. We follow the Market Research Society (MRS) guidelines around researching with children and young people, and their definition of an adult is 16 years old and over. The MRS also talks about informed consent and making sure you go through this process and get informed consent from the actual person who is being involved in the research, and not just from the parent or guardian.

If you missed the live webinar, why not listen to the rest of the recording and the other questions we answered?

More blogs?
Pitfalls of a single-tool approach in recruitment


If you would like to find out more about our in-house participant recruitment service for user testing or market research get in touch on 0117 921 0008 or info@peopleforresearch.co.uk.

About People for Research: We recruit participants for UX and usability testing and market research. We work with award winning UX agencies across the UK and partner with a number of end clients who are leading the way with in-house user experience and insight.

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